By Cere

Chapter 10: Mistakes

At first, their travels were simple and enjoyable. As Link and Navi followed the river up to its source, the realm of the Zora, she told him all she knew of the Zora from her conversations with the Great Deku Tree and information she read in the river. They were one of the great races of Hyrule, but they kept mostly to themselves. It had been almost a decade since the Zora had been last seen. Link knew this meant he had to be extra careful when discussing the Spiritual Stone with them.

But joyful frolicking in the warm sun and refreshing water changed to combat against hostile creatures. Blue Tektites with tough armor would jump across the water towards him. He also had to bring out his new Deku Shield to bounce back stones fired at him by Octoroks. However, it did give him time to practice the magic sword slash that the Great Fairy had given him. He became quite proficient at calling the magical wave of destructive energy, though it made him tired if he did it too much.

Eventually, though, they reached the source of the river. Unfortunately, it wasn't what they were hoping for. Link sat on an arch of earth that spanned the river and looked at the large waterfall blocking his path. His eyes searched, but he couldn't find any paths or ladders leading over the torrent of falling water. "I see how the Zora keep to themselves so easily," he muttered to himself.

Navi was fluttering about, trying to find any indication of how to continue. "I see a doorway," she called back. "It's on the other side of the waterfall."

"The other side?" Link shouted over the roar of the waterfall. "How do I reach it?"

"I think you just jump."

"I can't jump! The water will push me down before I can reach it."

"But there's no other way to reach it. There's no ladder or stairway or anything leading up to it."

Link sighed and plopped down onto the arch. He was surprised by the hardness of the rock underneath him. Frowning, he reached down and was surprised to feel designs carved into the stone. Quickly, he spun around and started clearing away the dirt and vegetation.

"What are you doing?" Navi asked.

Link stepped back to reveal a square of stone with writing on it. He knelt down and followed the words with his fingers as he muttered them under his breath. "The flow of this waterfall serves the King of Hyrule," he read. "When the King slumbers, so too do these falls." He straightened up and thought. "What does that mean?"

"A slumbering King?" Navi repeated. "What would make the King fall asleep?"

"A lullaby," Link said, realization hitting him. He stood and turned towards the waterfall, pulling his ocarina from his Pouch. "Just like I used Zelda's Lullaby to get into Darunia's chamber, I'll use it to get past this waterfall."

He put the ocarina to his lips and played. Several Tektites screeched a ways behind him, but he ignored them and concentrated on the simple melody. When he was finished, he felt as though he had just done exactly what the waterfall wanted.

"Look, Link!" Navi said.

The waterfall gradually slowed and became nothing more than a thin mist, revealing the doorway into Zora's Domain. Link thrust his arms up in triumph and jumped across into the doorway, Navi following him.

"Now, we need to be careful," Navi said as they walked down the dank tunnel. "Ganondorf has already tried to take the other two Spiritual Stones, so it's very probable that he's done something here as well. We need to keep our eyes open for anything suspicious."

"Okay," Link said. "Do you hear that?"

The sounds of voices were echoing down the tunnel. He couldn't quite understand what they were saying, but it sounded like they were insistent about something. One voice in particular sounded like it was giving orders, and the rest of the voices were responding to them.

The light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter as Link drew closer to it, and finally he stepped out into the central cavern of Zora's Domain. The cavern was enormous, capable of fitting several Great Deku Trees inside of it! It was lit by a combination of torches and daylight streaming from various openings in the ceiling. Stone walkways, such as the one Link was standing on, were cut into the wall around the cavern and occasionally branched off into tunnels that led away from the central chamber. Below the walkways was deep water that covered almost the entire floor of the cavern, fed by a waterfall coming from a high-up tunnel inside the cavern.

In this water were many creatures. Their humanoid bodies were sleek and light blue. Large fins flared off their arms and a tail bobbed from the back of their heads. They seemed to be very adept at swimming, as many of them emerged from and submerged back into the water. One of them was floating in the center and shouting orders to the others.

"Any luck?"

"We couldn't find anything."

"Sector twelve is empty."

"No luck in the Lake."

"You're back too soon. Go back and search more thoroughly!"

"Yes, sir."

All this activity confused Link. "Are they looking for the Spiritual Stone?" he wondered aloud.

"Sir, an intruder!"

Link straightened in shock as every creature in the cavern turned to look at him. He instinctively reached for his sword.

The leader wasted little time. "Capture him! He may know something."

The creatures quickly swam through the water towards him. Link drew his sword and shield and readied himself. The first couple creatures jumped onto his ledge and lunged for him. He dodged and sliced off the arm fin of one of them. The creature yelled in pain and blue blood splattered the ground.

Link froze. Ganondorf's evil creatures didn't bleed. That meant that…

"Link, those are the Zora!" Navi cried.

Bitter realization hit Link shortly before the other Zora chopped his head from behind. Link fell to the cold floor and slipped into unconsciousness.

Link woke with his cheek pressed against a rough surface. He moved his hands and noticed that he was lying on wood. He wasn't tied up or restrained in any way. However, when he shifted his body, the floor tilted beneath him. He clung to the wood as the floor eventually stopped rocking.

Looking up, he saw that there were metal bars around him. Compensating for the movement of the floor this time, Link sat up and observed his surroundings. The metal bars and wooden floor formed a cage that he was stuck in. It was a small cage, lacking enough room for him to stand up. The cage was suspended by a rope from the ceiling of the large cavern. Looking through the bars, he saw the water laying a long distance beneath him.

Several Zora were looking up at him in the cage. Link pulled himself back and sat in the center of the cage. It was then that he noticed that his sword and shield were gone. He frantically searched his clothes and found that his Pouch was missing as well.

The Spiritual Stones were in there! Link thought. Letting out a growl of frustration, he fell backwards and lay on the gently rocking wooden floor. He also painfully remembered how he had sliced that Zora's arm fin off. He put his hands over his face and moaned. What was he going to do now? He had ruined all his chances of getting the Spiritual Stone from them.

"Link, you're awake!" a familiar voice shouted. Navi flew into his cage and rested on his hands. He moved them off his face and Navi came to rest on his chest. She noticed the sad expression on his face. "What's wrong, Link?"

"I messed up," Link said. "I can't believe that I made such a stupid mistake."

"It's all right," Navi said. "You're just a little tense from all the fighting we've been doing recently. I didn't have enough time to read them and tell you what they were."

"You don't need to say that, Navi. I know that I've done a very bad thing and I'm in a lot of trouble now."

"But we've been in trouble before. We'll find a way out of it this time."

Link huffed and turned onto his side. "Heroes don't make mistakes like that."

Navi sadly observed him from his shoulder. The poor kid was really shook up by this. "Nobody's perfect, Link," she said, "not even the heroes you hear about in stories."

"I bet they never attacked their allies."

Navi laughed. "You'd be surprised. I've heard of armies that viciously battled each other, only to join together once they discovered their common goal."

Link shifted and looked at her hopefully. "Really?"

"Yeah," Navi said. "It doesn't matter if you've done some wrong things in the past. What matters is what you do right now. People can forgive you."

Link seemed a little more relieved. He sat up and leaned his back against the cage bars. "So then," he said, "what should we do now?"

"The first item of business is to get you out of this cage," Navi said. "It's hung next to an opening, up there. If you could somehow break this lock, you could climb up the rope and escape that way."

Link looked up at the lock keeping the door atop the cage in place. "How do I do that?" he asked. "My sword's been taken."

"Oh dear, that's not good," Navi said. "Do you know where it is?"

"No idea," Link said sadly. He was quiet for a moment, not wanting to admit his failure. "They have the Spiritual Stones, too."

"But they don't realize it yet," a voice said.

Link turned to see Vindari crouched on top of his cage. "Vindari!" Link said excitedly. Navi's response was less than warm.

"Seems that you're the only one that can open your Pouch," Vindari continued. "They eventually gave up and took it away with your weapons."

"Do you know where that is?" Link asked.

"Not yet. It shouldn't take too much to find it."

Link pondered his situation for a minute, but then a realization snuck into his head. "Vindari," he asked tentatively, "were you watching me the whole time?"

"Of course," Vindari replied. "You're my only hope of returning to normal."

"Then, did you see me attack that Zora?" Vindari nodded. "Why didn't you stop me?"

The temptation to see you mess up won, the black shadow thought. "It all happened too fast," he said aloud. "And besides, I don't want to show my hand too soon."

"But now I'm in a horrible situation," Link protested.

I know, Vindari thought, and one that didn't occur last time. "It's all right," he said. "All we need is the Spiritual Stone, right? Just steal it. Everyone will thank you once you've saved Hyrule."

The thought captured Link's mind for a while. It would mean that he didn't have to face up to his mistake. But then he shook his head. "I can't," he said. "That's not what a hero should do."

"Okay," Vindari said, if you must insist on doing things the stupid hard way. "I have another idea," he said, crouching down lower. "The Zora Princess, Ruto, has been missing for almost a week. They're looking desperately for her right now, and I'm sure they would be most grateful to the person who returned her, perhaps grateful enough to forgive past mistakes."

"That sounds better," Link said with new hope. "Do you think it'll work?"

"I'd bet on it," Vindari said, a smile slightly visible on his face.

Navi was slightly disappointed by how quickly Link cheered up. Her own encouragements had helped little, while this…black thing had easily given the boy new confidence. Why did Link trust him so readily? Try as she might, she still couldn't believe in the shadowy creature hunched above her.

Vindari's disgust at seeing the boy's happy expression was less now. It helped when he rationalized that he wasn't helping the boy, but merely using him for his master's evil schemes. The thought that he was playing Link like a puppet made him almost enjoy the advice he was giving. Almost. He still felt like snapping the rope holding his cage and watching him drown in the water below.

But that would be another time.

Akari quickly marched through the tunnels, two subordinates flanking him. The Zora guarding the intruder snapped to attention as the captain of the Zora Guard approached.

"The prisoner has awoken and reunited with his fairy friend," the guard said, saluting.

"Are you aware that we have another intruder?" Akari asked.

"No, sir."

"Look down," Akari ordered.

The guard was shocked to see the black thing crouching over the cage. "I do not know where this came from," he insisted. "No one has entered this tunnel since you left an hour ago. I am sure of it."

This is one of my most trusted guards, Akari thought. He's telling the truth. But then how did the black creature get to the cage? "Raise the cage immediately."

"Yes, sir!" The guard grabbed the rope and started pulling.

Link was startled as the cage suddenly started moving upwards. He looked up and saw several Zora staring at him from a hole in the ceiling. One of them was pulling up the cage.

"I should leave," Vindari said. "I'll look for where they're stashing your weapons."

"Thanks, Vindari," Link said. "You're a real help."

It was all Vindari could do to keep from ripping the boy's arms off. I'm only manipulating him, I'm only manipulating him, he repeated to himself as he teleported away.

Akari saw the black intruder suddenly disappear without a trace. What are we dealing with? he wondered.

Link tried to keep a confident face as he drew nearer to his captors. All I have to do is wait until Vindari rescues me, he thought. Then I can save the Princess and this will all be over.

Akari noticed the boy's purposeful expression as his cage was placed on the floor in front of him. "Where did your friend go?" Akari asked as the rope was untied from the cage.

"Somewhere else," Link replied.

Akari didn't seem impressed by the answer. "The court is assembled and ready for your questioning," he said, turning around briskly.

"Questioning?" Link asked.

Akari didn't respond, but merely walked away. His two subordinates grabbed Link's cage and carried it along with them. As Link tried to keep steady in the bouncing cage, a hand reached inside and snatched Navi away from him.

"Link!" Navi cried out.

"Navi!" Link yelled in return, turning to see the guard place her in a bottle.

"Her questioning will be separate," Akari said without turning around.

Link's resolve was shaken now that Navi was taken away. It seemed that the Zora had taken his attack very seriously. He wondered if rescuing Princess Ruto would really make everything better again. Vindari's first idea crept back into his brain, and he felt slightly ashamed for thinking about it.

Link stopped and tried to reassure himself. The Great Deku Tree believed in him. So did Saria and Zelda. Everyone was counting on him, and he couldn't afford to mess this up. Saving Ruto would have to work. It was the only option he had.

But first, he had to worry about this questioning. They had exited the tunnel, walked down some stairs, and were now traveling around the central chamber. Link tried to ignore the stares coming from other Zora going about their daily business. It seemed that their destination was a staircase leading up higher than any other tunnels, even the waterfall. As they walked up the stairs, he wondered just how high Zora's Domain went.

The staircase led to a square room. What caught Link's attention first was the fat Zora sitting on a higher ledge on the opposite side of the room. Unlike the Zora standing next to him, this Zora had a round body and short, thin legs. Water flowed over the ledge and pooled in the floor before flowing down a side tunnel, presumably the one holding the waterfall. A stone pedestal rose above the water, and Link was placed on this pedestal. Akari walked up the stairs along the side wall and stood next to the fat Zora.

"The questioning of the intruder before King Zora shall now begin," Akari announced.

So that's the King, Link thought. It explained the red cape and golden, jeweled crown that the King wore. As Link observed him, he noticed something strange about the King's behavior. He wasn't looking at Link, but instead was staring sadly downward.

"Intruder, what is your name?" Akari asked.

"Link," he replied. With a painful shock, he noticed that one of the Zora watching him had a bandage where his arm fin should have been. "I'm sorry about attacking you."

"Your apologies mean nothing to us, intruder," Akari said. "What is your business here?"

Link was taken aback by the response. "I mean it," he said. "I'm sorry."

"Answer the question, spy."

"Spy?" Link exclaimed. "You're wrong. I don't mean any harm."

"A likely story," Akari said. "Here's how I see it. The Princess has been missing for many days. You were hired by the man in black armor to spy on us and monitor our attempts to rescue her."

"The man in black armor? Ganondorf?"

"You know his name. How suspicious."

"I know his name because he's my enemy," Link said, starting to get frustrated.

"You both are land-walkers."

"What difference does that make?" he said frantically. He turned to plea with the entire audience. "Why won't you believe me?"

"Well then," Akari said, "why did you come here? An outsider here is most peculiar, especially one so heavily armed."

Link hesitated. Given their current attitude, they probably wouldn't react well if he said that he wanted the Spiritual Stone. Then, an idea came to him.

"I'm here to help find the Princess," he said.

Whispers spread throughout the crowd. "Again, a likely story," Akari said. "Just what we want to hear."

"I'm serious," Link said, keeping his voice firm.

"Then answer this," Akari said. "How did you know that the Princess was missing? We have told no one outside the kingdom of this."

"Um," Link said, searching for an answer.

"Only one in league with Ganondorf would know of her disappearance."

Link felt like he was running out of options. Regardless of the fact that he had attacked a Zora, they would have still hated him simply for the fact that he was an outsider. Curse Ganondorf for giving him such a bad precedent to deal with!

Suddenly, he remembered the words that Princess Zelda had said to him before he was kicked out of the castle. "The Zora are a proud race," she had said, "and they will not like you at first. But my father and their King have met before, and he's told me what a kind person the King Zora is. You must appeal to him if you want the Spiritual Stone."

Though he couldn't stand, Link sat tall and stared straight at the King above him. "King Zora, I'm telling the truth," he said. "Please believe me."

Shocked gasps spread through the group at Link's behavior. "How dare a spy like you address the King!" Akari shouted.

"Tell me," King Zora spoke. His voice was low and gravelly, but everybody stopped talking when they heard it. Akari bowed slightly and stepped aside. "Tell me where my daughter is," he said, lifting his gaze to stare at Link with saddened eyes. "That's all I want."

"If I knew, I would tell you," Link said, bowing his head.

There was silence as the King considered these words. Link tried to keep his breathing from matching his racing heart.

"His story has many holes," King Zora finally said. Link lifted his head to protest, but the King's face stopped him. "Still, this boy's guilt cannot be solidly proven. He must be tested by Lord Jabu-Jabu!"

There were murmurs of approval from the other Zora. Link, however, was confused. Who was this Lord Jabu-Jabu? Now more than ever, he wished that Navi was still around.

Two Zora again picked up his cage, while others lifted the cerulean chair King Zora was sitting in and carried him down the tunnel behind him, the rest of the crowd and Link following them. Though Link expected another chamber, he was surprised to head outside into the sunlight. In front of them was a large lake, shimmering in the clear day. He thought he heard someone next to him refer to this place as Zora's Fountain. Is this what supplies all the water in Zora's Domain? Link wondered.

Link was brought to the front of the crowd and set on a dock before King Zora's throne. All of them were facing the lake. Akari stepped out and spoke to the water. "Great Lord Jabu-Jabu," he said, "we offer this intruder to you. If your heart should feel this boy's innocence, then spare him, but if this is not so, show him your judgment."

Link started to understand. This Lord Jabu-Jabu must be like our Great Deku Tree.

Akari pulled a key from a pocket in his skin and unlocked Link's cage. Then he opened the door, turned the cage upside-down, and dumped Link out onto the dock. "Show us your divine will!" Akari shouted, and then pushed Link into the water.

Fortunately, Link had learned how to swim in Kokiri Forest. He rushed to the surface and treaded water there, spitting out the water he had accidentally swallowed. He was confused about what exactly was happening. Everyone was looking at him, as if expecting something to happen.

Then, he felt the strange sensation that something was moving in the water underneath him. He turned around and stared into the depths of the lake. A shadow detached itself from the bottom and was rushing towards him. As the shadow drew nearer, Link could finally tell what it was: an enormous blue fish! Judging from the ornate golden crown on its head, he figured that this must be Lord Jabu-Jabu.

Link grew nervous as the fish came closer and closer. What did it want with him? Its blue eyes were fixed on him. Then, its mouth opened, revealing two rows of sharp teeth and a cavernous black hole. Link had the painful realization that he was about to be this fish's dinner!

He tried to swim away, but it was too late. He had one last look at the watching Zora before the jaws sprung up out of the water around him and snapped shut.

"Lord Jabu-Jabu has made his judgment," Akari said.