Romance and Adventure on the High Seas

Far beneath the waves

A land cries out for freedom

One hero answers

Chapter 1. At the Outset

I've always liked sleeping outdoors. When the weather is nice, as it so often is on Outset Island, there isn't really anything keeping you inside. So I sneak outside and stare at the stars until I fall asleep. I like to pretend I'm sailing off into that sea of stars, away from Outset.

Don't get me wrong, I like Outset, it's just not where I want to spend the rest of my life. It's a great place to raise kids or retire, but there's nothing to do here. It's not a place for a young man looking to find his niche in life.

Not that I'm a young man exactly, yet. You're considered a man when you turn twelve but, come on, we all know that a twelve-year-old is not capable of taking care of himself or anyone else.

Or at least, that's what I thought back then... But it's amazing the kinds of things even a twelve-year-old can accomplish, if he has a good enough reason.

That morning, the morning, I remember I was dreaming. I saw a country putting their fate in the hands of gods and heroes, and drowning. I got this feeling, like I wanted to help those people, but at the same time I wanted to smack some sense into them. You don't expect gods to save you! You get out there and save yourself!

It wasn't until long after I awoke that I realized my dream was surprising similar to a story my Grandma had told me once.

Actually, I had been so deep in sleep that it took me a minute to even realize where I was and what was going on. Aryll stood in front of me, smiling in that cute little way of hers. She's so much smarter than I remember being at her age. I always get the feeling she's the one taking care of me, instead of vice versa.

Then again, I do suffer from what my Grandma likes to call "common sense issues." Sometimes jumping off of high stuff seems like a really good idea!

"I knew you'd be here!" Aryll giggled. "This is my favorite spot to gaze out at the sea. When I play with the gulls, I call it Aryll's Lookout." She looked at me and smiled again. "So, do you remember what day it is today?"

I blinked groggily.

Her smile turned wry. "You're still half asleep aren't you? Did you forget?"

I blinked again.

"Big Brother, it's your birthday!"

That woke me up. You'd think your birthday wouldn't be that easy to forget.

"Grandma's been waiting for you to come back to the house for a while now, it's a good thing I came to find you! Go see what she wants." She shoved me toward the ladder. "Go on!"

"I'm going, I'm going," I said. "Be careful, this thing is tall!"

"Go Big Brother!"

"You're lucky I like you."

"I know," she smiled so sweetly that I couldn't help but smile back.

Grandma had been acting a little odd the past few weeks. I think the idea of me growing up disturbed her. Parents get like that.

I didn't head straight home, stopping along the way to say hi to some of our neighbors. Abe was trying to catch a couple of the wild pigs on the island as a gift for his wife, Rose, but was proving to be hopelessly inept at it. I gave him a hand, and Rose gave me some cash. I love that woman.

Shame her kids are so clingy. Especially Zill with his perpetual snot drip. Ew.

Then Sturgeon called my up to his place for a lecture. He does that sometimes. Technically, I got all my schooling from Sturgeon, but the man is so...eccentric, that I got that schooling at completely random moments and on completely random subjects.

He chose to lecture me on "manhood" that day. Not the kind you're thinking of, silly perverts, but courage and responsibility and that shit. I don't know why he thought I needed a lecture. I do my chores, I help people out, I'm generally a good kid. Generally.

When I finally made it back to the house Grandma was waiting for me, not angry at all. She never gets angry. Not even that time I smashed all her pots in a fit of pointless rage. No, she got disappointed in me, which is much worse.

"There you are Link," she said. "Here, try these on." She shoved a pile of green fabric into my arms, then sighed wistfully. "Time certainly flies... I can't believe you're already old enough to wear these clothes."

I stared in dismay at the outfit. Long-sleeved green shirt, darker green tunic-thing, long white pants, and a hat to match. "They look like they might be a little, uh, warm for this weather."

"Don't sound so disappointed dear one, you only have to wear them for one day. Today is a day to celebrate. It is the day that you become the same age as the young hero in all the legends." She started to get a far-off look in her eye, and I knew I was in for a speech. "Be proud, child. In the olden days, this was the day the boys were finally considered to be men. They were taught the ways of the sword to prepare them for battle with their enemies. But we don't live in such a way any longer. Our ways are the ways of peace. Nowadays, I suppose Orca is the only one on the island who still knows anything about swordplay." She gestured behind her. "Hanging the family shield on the wall as a decoration is another tradition that has been carried down from those days."

I'd never thought much about that shield. It was just something that had always been there, like Grandma. I didn't remember my parents, though sometimes I had vague pictures in my mind, and the feeling that I'd been very happy. Aryll didn't even remember that much.

I put on those silly green clothes, and was grateful to discover they were not nearly as uncomfortable as they looked. If it wasn't for the lack of anything resembling style, I wouldn't have minded wearing them all the time.

"Isn't that nice, Link?" Grandma looked me over happily. "They suit you perfectly! A perfect fit!"

She made me spin around and model for her, then adjusted my hat and nudged me toward the door.

"Well, tonight I'm going to invite the whole town over for your birthday party, so I'd better start getting ready. Your grandma is going to make your favorite soup for you tonight. I just know you're looking forward to it. Now go get your sister."

Reluctant as I was to be seen in that outfit, I obeyed. Aryll was where I'd left her, up in her Lookout.

"Ah! 'Hoy, Big Brother!" she greeted me when she saw me. "Did Grandma make that outfit for you?"

I nodded miserably.

"But, wow you look like you'd be way too hot in these clothes."

"They're not so bad," I shrugged.

"I guess they're pretty neat," she conceded. "So, anyway, Link...can you close your eyes and hold your hands?"

I frowned suspiciously. If you have siblings, you know why. Sometimes it's just a bad idea to trust them, especially when they want you to.

"Just for a second?" Aryll pleaded. "I"m going to give you my most treasured belonging... But just for one day..."

I gave up and held out my hands, and felt something placed in them.

"Happy birthday!" Aryll exclaimed.

I opened my eyes. "Your telescope! Aryll!"

"So, well? Do you like it? I'm letting you borrow this just because you're my big brother. Aren't you lucky?"

"Thank you Aryll," I smiled at her. "I know how much this means to you." It was her prized possession. I suspected, rather strongly, that Aryll wanted off Outset as much as I did. After all, her most treasured belonging was device that was used to look at things a long way off.

"Ooh, why don't you try it out! Right now? Try looking at our house from here."

I did, and Aryll showed me how to zoom in and out. I looked around a bit, and spotted Quill, the Rito postman, at the mailbox. Suddenly he glanced up, then started flapping his wings frantically and freaking out.

"The postman looks kinda of weird, doesn't he?" Aryll said from near my shoulder. Then she screamed, nearly blowing my eardrums out. "Link! The sky! Look up in the sky!"

I whirled around and looked up, telescope still to my eye, and nearly screamed as well when I saw an absolutely enormous bird flying toward the island. For a moment I couldn't grasp what I was seeing, then I zoomed in and gasped. The bird was carrying a girl in its beak!

I heard cannon shots from below and looked down. There was a ship, a large one, clearly pirates, firing at the bird. They scored a hit and, much to my dismay, the bird dropped the girl directly into the Forest of Fairies, on top of the cliffs.

"Link, this is so terrible!" Aryll exclaimed. "That girl fell in the forest! She needs help!"

I nodded sharply and started for the ladder.

"Wait Link! I didn't mean you! It's too dangerous without something to protect yourself with!"

"Then I'll just have to get something to protect myself with," I said. I slid down the ladder and headed for Orca's house.

He was exercising, hitting the wall or something, but turned when I came in. "Oh! What is the matter, Link? You have an urgent look about you... Has something happened?"

I bit my lip. I couldn't say, "A pirate girl just got dropped in the forest by a huge bird." It sounded ridiculous when I thought about it.

"Whatever it is, from the look on your face I suspect that it is no laughing matter... What say you, Link? Ah. Have you come for some serious instruction in the way of the sword?"

"Yes sir," I said. It would probably be a good idea to get some training before rushing off to save the day anyway.

"Very good!"

He took a sword off the wall, weighed it in his hands, then handed it to me. He took a large spear for himself. We bowed to each other.

"Link, your first lesson shall be the horizontal slice! Face me and swing. Do not fear for my safety... I am ready for you."

I tried and Orca blocked me easily.

"Good! Keep coming at me!"

We practiced for what felt like hours, but couldn't have been more than twenty minutes. I learned the vertical slice, the thrust, the spin attack, the parry attack, and the jump attack. Orca seemed genuinely impressed by my skills. He didn't know that I'd been watching him and playing swordsman with sticks since I was tiny.

"That was a fine display!" he said. "And yet... I sense a certain anxiousness in the sword you hold...an eagerness that goes far beyond the mere desire to be wielded on the fields of battle..."

I looked at the sword curiously.

"I do not know what has happened," Orca continued. "But I have faith in you. Somehow, I doubt you will misuse that sword... You may have it, Link. I give it freely. Take the blade with you."

"Thank you master," I said, not knowing what else to say.

"Since the olden days, this sword has been used to fend off evil... Its blade is infused with the desire to become strong and righteous. Be strong, Link."

We bowed again, then I turned and ran outside.

The path up to the forest was blocked by a patch of small trees and brush, allowed to grow freely more to keep people off the path than because no one wanted to bother to chop it all down. There were monsters in the forest, lots of them, but they stuck to their part of the island and we stuck to ours. Maybe it was strange that there was any part of such a small island that was off-limits, but that was the way it had always been.

There were miniblins on the path, those annoying imp-like creatures that I called "nak naks" in my head, after the sound they made. I was still new at the whole sword thing, but they weren't much trouble. Most of them ran away after I took out the first one, and the others dropped off once I got to the top of the path.

The rope bridge that led across the gap between the two parts of the island was damaged, and had been for some time, but I leapt across the gap with no problem. There were advantages to being young and sprightly.

I entered the forest with no small amount of trepidation. Like I said, I was new at this. But the creatures I came across were mostly just creatures, relatively weak. Until I ran into the bokoblin.

Bokoblins and their larger cousins, moblins, have always bothered me a bit. They're just monsters, or so I've been told, but they wear clothing and use weapons. They seem almost, almost, like people.

But they're still monsters, and this one was likely to hurt that pirate girl. It was armed only with a stick, and wasn't expecting me, so I had the upper hand. After only a few strikes it screamed and fell back, exploding into smoke.

That, I suppose, is what marks bokoblins as monsters. Like all the others, they turn into smoke when they die. When a person dies they just...die.

I'd only ever seen one dead person. Sturgeon's wife, who had passed away several years ago. I couldn't even remember her name, now, but I remembered how still she was as they lay her out in her funeral barge. It was creepier than it was sad, though it made me ashamed now to admit that.

I could see something bright in the trees farther in and I headed for it, having no other landmark. When I was close enough to see that it was, in fact, a person, two enormous moblins dropped out of the sky and grunted threateningly at me.

Perfect.

Moblins are huge. I mean really huge. Sure, that kidnapper bird may have dwarfed them, but not much else does.

It was very tempting to just close my eyes and trust to luck, but that would have gotten me killed. I was not willing to die for a pirate I had never met, not even a girl I had never met.

I had to take the moblins one at a time, lucky for me they're dumb as bricks. As soon as I knocked the weapon out of one of their hands it would turn around, often exposing its back to me, to retrieve it. It was a matter of moments, once I got the hang of it, to finish them both off.

It was a little disturbing how quickly I got the hang of it.

I ran toward the tree the girl was hanging in. She would probably never know how lucky she was to have been snagged by that branch. If the fall hadn't killed her, the monsters would have.

But as I ran I saw the branch start to bend, then snap, and the girl fell the rest of the way to the ground.

Somehow, this brought her to her senses. She groaned and pushed herself up, looking at me groggily.

This was the first time I'd seen her clearly, and I have to admit, I was slightly stunned. I thought pirates were diseased scumbags, rats, scourge of the seas, but this girl looked as normal as anyone else I knew. Not only that, but there was a part of my brain, a part that was becoming more and more insistent as I got older, that told me this girl was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, and ever would see.

She was tanned from a life outdoors, and her honey-blonde hair was pulled back from her face, revealing wide blue eyes and a high clear forehead. Those eyes surveyed me, still half-stunned, and her soft lips parted and she said, "Wow. What's with that get-up?"

I could almost feel the blow to my self-esteem.

"Well, whatever." The girl shook her head and climbed to her feet. "So, where am I?" From her tone it was clear she was used to people listening to her, but I wasn't used to listening to people. Either way, she didn't even give me time to answer. "Oh, that's right! That giant bird came and..."

"Miss! Miss Tetra!"

The girl and I turned toward the new voice and I saw a pirate, a large man in a bandanna, come rushing toward us.

"Oh! Oh, thank... Thank goodness! You're safe!" the man panted when he got up to us. I was surprised by his concern, I didn't think pirates cared that much about each other. "When I saw you get dropped on this summit, I thought for sure you'd..." He trailed off, and I understood why. This girl, Tetra, didn't seem like the kind of person who would like others to know she was mortal.

"Summit?" she said. "So that bird dropped me off on the top of a mountain? Well, wasn't that nice of it!"

The pirate and I blinked at her. Apparently even he wasn't expecting that reaction.

"Well, don't just stand there!" Tetra ordered him. "Let's go! Time to repay our debt to that bird in full!"

"But Miss," the pirate glanced at me. "What about this boy?"

"Don't worry about him."

"Hey!"

"Come on!" she said, ignoring me. She and the pirate took off toward the exit and I followed, curious.

I emerged, blinking against the bright sunlight after the gloom of the forest, to hear Aryll's voice. "'Hoy! Big Brother!"

My eyes cleared and I saw that she was standing on the far side of the bridge, waving. I smiled and waved back. Aryll started across the bridge toward me...

And then that giant bird swooped down out of the sky and snatched my sister up.

"Brother!" Aryll screamed.

"Aryll!" I cried. I rushed forward, not thinking, just trying to get to her before it was too late. I forgot to take into account the terrain, and the fact that it stopped abruptly only a few feet from where I'd started.

My feet churned on empty air, but my eyes were fixed on Aryll. That is, until my arm was almost wrenched from its socket by my own weight.

"Uhnn! Stupid kid!" I looked up and saw Tetra holding on tight to my arm. There was genuine pain in her eyes.

"Get ahold of yourself!" she ordered. "She's gone! There's nothing you can do..."

I looked after the bird, quickly disappearing into the distance.

"Screw that," I said. "I'm getting my sister back."

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Notes from the Author

I meant to post this just after midnight last night, but I was tired and distracted by noisy neighbors and it completely slipped my mind. So here it is! My new story! Yay!

I dipped rather heavily into a script for the game I downloaded off the internet for dialogue. I'll stop doing that eventuaally, probably, but it's just so useful, and makes it seem that much more real.

I hope you all like it. I sure do.