Chapter 15: The Frozen Temple
A long and painful time passed since the Elder had died in Darmani's arms. At the end of that time, Darmani finally regained some composure and pushed himself back up off the frozen structures of lake and Goron alike. Refusing to leave his adopted father out in the damning cold, Darmani picked up the Elder in both arms and carried him the short quarter-mile distance to the hot springs.
The hot springs themselves were located in a small cave just off shore of the now-frozen lake. There wasn't much to it other than the cave just like any other with the back end half-filled with the hot water steaming out of the crevice it seeped through. What little light made it through reflected off the surface and decorated the dull, stone walls in a variety of colours, and with the steam of the water changing and mixing the light, it made the sight a thing of natural beauty.
Walking in slowly upon this splendour, Darmani found an appropriate spot right by the water's edge and laid the Elder there to rest. Taking a step back to look at the new scene, a single tear fell from the brave face and would then be known as the last tear he would shed. From then on, his resolve would not be to cry or to mourn, but to be proud and strong and to make sure that his promise to look after the tribe would never be broken.
"Rest in peace; brave Elder of our tribe."
A moment of silence hung in the air. Darmani bowed his head and for that time, nothing happened. The cold wind still blew, the warm steam wafted through and for this moment of sanctity, nothing happened. Eventually raising his head and somehow managing to turn away from the Elder, Darmani looked back at the snowy mountain and at Tatl who was waiting just outside.
"Now come!" Darmani declared, "The temple awaits!"
Despite the snow and her own glow camouflaging her expression, Tatl's face and being was that of concern.
"Darmani, are you sure? We don't have to leave right now."
"Tatl, thank you for your concern, but I gave Link my word. This is something we all have to do." Darmani answered solemnly.
Before a response came to her, the memory of thinking Tael was dead resurfaced. In the back of her mind, she knew he wasn't truly dead as they would have to go back to when he was alive, but even so she was devastated. Darmani has the escape of the temple as something to do and take his mind off of things, but even if they went back, the Elder would still be frozen and die no matter what they tried. He needed this, and there was nothing she could do to help.
"…I understand," Tatl answered weakly, "Let's go."
With no further words necessary, Darmani returned to the roughly trodden path and began rolling once again in the direction of the temple.
On their silent journey up the remaining stretch, the snow continued to fall and subtly increased. When they were just a few hundred yards from the clearing to the temple, it was practically a downpour having already covered their previous tracks with no sign of letting up. Having lost most of his momentum due to being bogged down by too much snow, Darmani was forced to uncurl and walk the rest of the way.
"Don't worry, we're almost there."
"Darmani," Tatl started, then checked herself and stopped. When Darmani looked back to hear, though, Tatl continued anyway. "Darmani, you say you died before getting into the temple. Why is that?"
A good question. Link thought.
Darmani ignored the question at first, walking on again instead. Tatl instantly regretted asking, but less so when Darmani stopped at the clearing and raised an arm at what lay ahead.
Spanning for what must have been a half-mile diameter, a roughly circular gorge filled the peak of the mountain, cliff-sides of snow making it impossible to enter save this one entrance. Resting squarely in the centre, held up by a giant column of stone and snow, was the Snowhead Temple, shooting off in various directions with massive towers of ice, or at least, that's what it looked like. Stretching across the gaping abyss, connecting the path to the temple, was a single straight path covered in snow.
The path, it seemed, was what Darmani was pointing at. It was long, and narrow. With Darmani's large Goron build he could only just stand up straight with very little extra room, but that itself wouldn't be possible due to the high gale winds blowing and the sheet of ice resting beneath the foot-deep length of snow.
The winds howled over the would-be silence carrying with it the constant hail and snow in all directions save towards the temple. To be here and see the sight, it would not take long to establish the cold was coming from the temple and spreading outwards. Taking a breath of his own, Darmani set a firm gaze on the temple in front of him and set a foot forward to tackle it, yet found the other foot would not follow.
"Whoa, wait," Link cried out, somewhat unintentionally, "you're going?"
"Of course. I have to do this."
"Despite having just admitted that you failed here the last time. How do you know this attempt will be different?"
"I don't, but there is no other alternative."
"Yes there is. I go."
It took a moment for Darmani to understand the difference. It was the same body after all, and he couldn't have meant turning back into his human form. Despite the warm clothing, he wouldn't last long enough to make it even half way. When Link moved the other foot to stand firm next to the first one, then he saw the meaning.
"Link, this makes no sense. I am more adjusted to this body than you are, I know where I previously failed and how to correct it, and most importantly, I can do this. Please, just trust me."
Trust me. The words echoed through Link's mind, reliving all the previous times of betrayal and broken promises. Darunia, his sworn brother, who had pledged to help at any time, and Saria, who had always been there for him were both gone. The dark side to him that he trusted, believing that it knew what was best for Link only to try and kill him the moment it was free. It wasn't the fact that there was no reason to trust Darmani, but that it was still difficult to trust anyone at all.
Link marched forward through the snow, now completely shutting Darmani out from any form of control. There was still at least another few feet before the ledge they were on turned into the narrow pass, yet it was already proving itself difficult just to reach that due to the incredible force of the wind and hail. Tatl, seemingly immune to the hail but less so to the wind, did her best to keep alongside the Goron Link and realising, perhaps, just why even a Goron hero would fail at this point.
"Tatl, how fast can you move through this wind?" Link asked, not letting his focus or body move away for an instant.
"Slowly, but I could probably beat you across."
"Good. Fly out to the side and keep watching the ice. If it looks like it starts to crack, tell me."
Doing as told, Tatl stayed level with Link about twenty yards out to get a good wide view. Fortunately, the ice below still looked stable and in no immediate danger, and the whole pass looked quite thick with all the snow on top, but watching the heavy Goron feet fall straight through and nearly meet the ice wasn't any kind of comfort at all.
With the lack of any immediate danger to focus on, her thoughts wandered back to Link and what he might be going through. She felt like she knew the reason, or part of it, from what she had already heard of his past and wasn't sure whether to agree with it or not. For her own reasons, she slowly found herself an understanding. She had trusted the skull kid, and look where that led to. Her entire people had trusted the Great Fairies and that created a civil war.
Still, there was always the other side to the coin. It wasn't the skull kid who betrayed them, but Majora's influence on him, and whether they had trusted the Great Fairies or not, they still would have acted as they did and make the war happen anyway. It was a difficult feeling to comprehend and give. Perhaps this was what Link was thinking.
If, however, he had the time, then he would. Instead his thoughts were far more intent on getting him across the pass. He was close to obtaining a method as to where to place his new sturdy feet, but the wind would always move him about slightly every time his legs left the freezing grip of the snow around it. No doubt that even though he had the strong and enduring physique of a Goron, the cold and ice and snow was impossible to ignore as it piled up on him making an already heavy form even heavier. A sudden sound quickly got his full attention as his body froze, perhaps in more ways than one.
"Tatl?" Link fearfully shouted.
"It's ok. I can't see anything. Just the crunching of snow."
It didn't help to set his fears at ease. He was just about halfway across now and the wind and snow were getting intense. His vision was effectively white with snow and hail. It took all available strength at hand just to make a single step without shaking too much and missing. The end was nowhere in sight and if he had got this far in near silence, any sound was not a good sound.
Another foot fell forwards into the snow, straight through to the silky ice below. As he had done all previous times, Link stayed still for just a moment to let his weight settle and plot his next move. Thinking he was currently safe, he lifted his other foot out of the snow allowing all his weight to rest where it probably shouldn't have, proven true by another and much louder sound.
All stood still.
A half-buried foot floated in place, questioning whether to go back and be safe or press on and away, the fluttering wings watched from afar with no idea how to act, and the minutely thin line creaked and stretched and grew until all around knew that their luck had run out.
The last step turned into a launching push as Link curled up tight and began rolling as fast as he could. Accepting the race, the thin crack tore the path in two and pulled more of it down just as quickly as the Goron was fleeing, the smooth trench of snow left by Link getting shorter by the second. The wind and hail didn't matter now. Sure, it was still threatening to blow him off, but if Link dared slow down by even the smallest of margins he was certain to fall to the collapsing bridge.
By some miracle, the path suddenly sloped upwards sending an unaware speeding ball up and straight into the side of the majestic temple. Slowly recovering from the back-breaking collision, Link tried to establish just what had happened in the last blur of his life.
First, he happily established that he was now on solid ground, or ice, strong enough to support him easily. This quickly led to realising he had made it, with the temple standing incredibly tall in front of him. Also, the wind had stopped. He had no idea just when it had, and had no intention of venturing back out to try and discover where, but he was now in the eye of the storm and glad to not be in any immediate danger. Finally, he now had a splitting headache.
"Link? Link! Are you ok?"
At first, Link actually couldn't hear Tatl's cries of concern due to being so shook up from spinning around so fast only to come to a sudden, painful, stop. Giving his head a quick shake, sight and sound came into focus and the, now not-so-cold, surroundings became clear.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Link confirmed, shaking an arm and a leg just to see if they were still there.
"Oh thank goodness. You really had me worried back there."
There was silence for a short moment. Both were short on breath and wanted to look around themselves to see what now lay here. It was still essentially snow and ice all around as the wide ledge they were now on circled the entire outside of the temple, the entrance of which they would soon find on the other side. What stopped them from searching straight away was the fact that the path they just crossed to get there had completely crumbled away.
There was no way back.
After a moment of thought, trying to see if there was any other way off, Link set off deciding it was not currently important and that maybe something inside the temple could lead them back down the mountain. Either way, nothing could be done now so the next guardian came out top of the list.
A winding slope wound round the outside revealing the entrance about a short distance off the ground, yet the thirty foot drop and ten times that above gave the indication that this was not going to be as easy as Woodfall. Once inside, it grew slightly warmer again with the comfort of walls and little back-draft so link dared to take off the Goron mask and go in as a human for now. He still had on the warm furs Bramne had given him as well as the bomb bag and flint pieces still on his fingers.
Now somewhat adjusted Link caught up with what Tatl had been doing by looking around and checking out the entrance to the temple. It was a simple room to start with, nothing too extravagant or flashy, with a few columns of ice making a narrower path down to another small room. This one was slightly larger than the first and equally unexciting save a single door at the end alike to those in the Woodfall temple and deep below Clock Town. Pressing against it, the door slid up and revealed the reason why the outside looked so tall.
The roof, at this point in time, was nowhere in sight. The walls towered up with ledges and paths sticking to them at various heights yet always leaving the centre untouched and empty from top to bottom. Well, almost the bottom as Link's current floor held a huge hexagonal shape etched with strange carvings and symbols all over. The edges touched a number of paths that all lead to other doors while a lower level hung below it with nothing but barren earth, to Link's surprise.
"Whoa," was all Tatl could say.
Snapping himself away from his gaze, Link crossed the deceptively large room to a door on the other side. There was no guide this time, nobody who knew the temple inside out, so Link was relying on luck or a trial-and-error method to eventually find the beast that was causing the winter and keeping the Giant trapped.
The door slid open to another dull room. Walls of stone stretched down the long corridor in a jagged formation with statues of ice being the only decoration. The door quickly closed behind him, and after taking only a few steps in, he stopped.
"It's cold in here," Link said.
"Yeah, you're right."
"It shouldn't be."
Link shushed Tatl before she said anything else. Slowly, he started moving again while keeping a constant watch around him and at the statues. As he passed, a pair of crystal eyes opened. Gliding along the floor, leaving a trail of mist behind it, an icy figure drew out a frozen arm and without a sound, gripped firmly onto Link's right arm.
Link's cry was quick and pained, more due to the sudden cold and ice now growing out of the statue and covering his arm. In a flash, Link drew his sword out and sliced the creature in half, the new blade effortlessly falling through the ice, but the victory was short lived as another statue came from behind and grabbed his other arm.
"Tatl, Goron mask. Quickly!"
Snapping his arm free of the grip, Link slashed the other statue apart only to be met by two more from ahead. Whilst not covered in ice, the freezing touch had already slowed it and if left alone, he would be overwhelmed, which was why he needed Tatl to get the mask. Getting it himself would leave him open and completely frozen before it could reach his face.
Tatl quite clearly had the more difficult task, trying to get into an invisible pack and hope she could find the right mask. After some rummaging, more statues falling and others re-forming, Tatl pulled out the mask and tossed it out being too heavy to carry.
Within the next instant, Link dropped his sword to catch the mask and swing it round to his face. The ice on his arm shattered under the pressure of the much larger and stronger Goron arm and before Link even had a chance to move, Darmani swung a fist down on the remaining statues leaving nothing but chips of ice everywhere. They would reform, but not for some time as opposed to those wounded by a single slice.
"We should get out of here," Tatl suggested.
Link agreed, taking the mask off again then following Tatl to the end of the room and some stairs. Rubbing his arms to try and establish feeling again, Link turned to Darmani while climbing the high staircase.
"You were quick to take control," Link said with an obvious discomfort in his tone.
You were in trouble; I was there, so I did what I could to help. Darmani defended.
"I didn't ask for your help, and I didn't need it, only your form."
Please, why can't I help you?
Link slowed down. Tatl didn't notice as she had gone ahead to the top.
"...Because it's hard."
Reaching the top of the stairs, another similar room to that of below now stood ahead of them, but fortunately there were no statues in this one. Regardless, Link kept a wary hand near his sword and a constant watch for whatever might lurk in this place. Tatl assigned herself the role of secondary lookout while Darmani was left to fester on his troubles.
This boy was unlike any other he had seen. The brief display with such a sword showed remarkable skill for his age and who else could bring the dead back to life...in a manner of speaking. Of course, there was also the emotional turmoil Link seemed to be going through. If only he knew what he was going through, then he might be able to help, or at least have a better understanding and tread more carefully. Instead, Link kept it to himself and wouldn't allow any others in.
Darmani, can you hear me?
...yes, Darmani answered, still sceptical of another voice.
My name is Dreek. I'm a, or rather was, a Deku from the Woodfall realm. You need to learn about Link.
This could not have come at a better time. Though, the way in which he said he was a Deku wasn't encouraging, as it lent him no form of living on after this either. There would be time to think on this later. For now, he needed to know about Link.
Do you think he can hear us? Darmani asked.
Somehow, I don't think so. We're safe, if that's what you're thinking.
So what do I need to know about Link, then?
He's been through a lot, Dreek started, He's lost a lot of people he's cared about and been made to do things that no other person could do. He lost his childhood innocence and has very good reason for hating the world and parts of the divine that come with it. He has improved since then, however, and is gradually returning to the way he should be, but it will still take time.
How do you know all this?
Let's just say we got off on the wrong foot, but right now, Link needs to get through this on his own. Your actions only mean good, I can see that, but at the same time you're trying to force him to believe in you, and being forced into anything is the one thing Link hates above all else. Let him make his own mistakes.
So I am to simply sit back and watch him suffer through life? Darmani questioned, hints of a temper rising.
For now, yes.
Well I can't. I have always been taught to help another when they are in any kind of pain. I will be gentle, as you seem to suggest, but I will not ignore him, even if he wants me to.
Dreek sighed at the unyielding Goron pride. It was what made them a strong race, and almost exactly what Link needed, but he was still unsure if now was the best time. It had only been a couple of days since Odolwa and was that really enough time to get over something like that? Who knows, maybe he'd be surprised.
Catching up with reality, Link had left the old room and already crossed one of the ledges in the large centre room to wind up in what looked like a cave. There were a few raised hexagons like the large one from before, except these were much smaller being about as long as Link was tall.
"What now then," Tatl asked.
"I don't know."
Ignoring the hexagons for now, Link followed the curved floor down to a layer of crisp white at the bottom. It looked and felt like snow should, but something about it seemed off. Remaining wary of it, Link kept looking around and saw what he guessed was another of the hexagons raised high next to a wall. Only being able to see the side, he sent Tatl off to look at it from above and confirm his guess.
"Yeah, it's the same, as one of them anyway. This one has a green top like the one near you, while the one back there is blue."
Looking around, Link noticed the other green shape that was somehow level with the ground, yet not covered in any snow at all. Before he had a chance to investigate this further, falling snow landed on his clothes that distracted him more-so. Why, or more importantly, how, would it be snowing inside?
The snow gradually fell faster with more falling at the same rate, and to add to the oddities, it was only snowing in the spot where Link stood. Taking a step that would have placed him outside the snowfall, it remained targeted on him as well as landing in clumps on him instead of all over. Tatl had returned now and was finding the situation just as odd as Link, who was trying to brush some of the snow off his chest, only to be rewarded with a small bite mark on his palm.
Staring at his palm in surprise, Link looked back down at the snow on his chest to find the surprise not over. The snow seemed to be forming into something, gathering itself together making a white fluffy ball along with the others across his body made by the snow. Meeting his stare, a pair of dark red eyes rolled over the top and paused, as if curious. More eyes appeared with each pair locked on to Link's face when they suddenly narrowed to slits and wide fang-filled jaws swiftly clamped down on the nearest piece of flesh they could find.
Screaming a muffled scream, Link moved as quick as he could – which was slower than expected due to the creatures weighing him down – to get out of the snow while punching one of the beasts off. Tatl had knocked one off as well by charging into it, but it looked hopeless as they simply got back up again while the continuous snow only made more of them.
"Wait," Tatl slowed, looking back at the blue tile near the back, "maybe they're connected somehow, like a switch to press down. Link, try it!"
"I can't now!" Link shouted back, still wrestling and hacking the snow balls off him.
Two more fell apart off his limbs, the sword swung only just missing the flesh, as the now free arm reached once again for the Goron mask in his pack. Fortunately, there was much less resistance than previously and the ever-beneficial transformation went as hoped, mainly because Darmani didn't do anything this time.
Running out of the ditch, both Link and Tatl were glad to see the snow had stopped falling above them as it seemed to be limited to that area only. Sadly, it didn't stop the monsters from forming and chasing them up the bank.
Grabbing the last monster on his back, Link ripped it off and crushed it in his hand paying the falling frost no regards. It was amazing how much physical strength he had now, but it was something he had banked on as the final approach to the blue tile turned into a running jump, hands balled up behind his head and swinging forwards, coming to a crashing halt on the smooth surface.
Grinding sounds quickly followed. Primarily, the target of the blow shuddered in place, as if struggling against a lock, before slowly dropping down to meet the surrounding ground. At the other side of the cave-like room, the pillar fell in a similar fashion eventually revealing another door across the ditch. Finally, to solve the problem of getting to that door, the green shape rose up from the ground not too far from where Link was now, making a short stepping stone of itself.
Link sighed, looking at the gap. "There's no way a Goron could make that."
Ripping the mask off once more, Link moved to prepare a running jump. First, he'd have to deal with the growing army of snow beasts not too far away. Counting it up as far too many to deal with in combat, Link dug into one of the pouches at his belt and drew out one of the bombs Bramne gave him. Pinching the fuse about halfway down for a quick detonation, he snapped his fingers, bowled the bomb into the middle of the pack and ran for the edge.
Eventually, Link would regret not being able to look back on the blast and see all the tiny fragments of ice and snow scatter in an instant, fluttering back down to the ground like normal snow should.
Landing on the platform and then landing again on the other side, Link moved at a more leisurely pace to the now visible door while taking the time to check himself for deep cuts or worse. Tatl, however, beat him to it when she saw the bite mark on his hand.
"Oh my gosh, they bit you? Here, let me see."
"I'm fine, Tatl," Link responded, holding up his other hand to stop her charge, "They're all just small bites. Nothing deadly, nothing-"
"All? They all bit you? Oh, Link. Please, I can-"
"Tatl," Link cut her off, his voice firm yet holding no anger, "I'm fine."
Holding herself, Tatl struggled against herself trying to decide what to do. Giving in to Link's determinism, Tatl sighed.
"If you say so."
Pressing the last droplets of blood against the wooden surface, the door leapt open leading the two into another seemingly empty cavern. This room was more obvious than the previous one, to their fortune, as a number of rock formations created a stair of sorts to a much higher ledge that could only be assumed as the way forwards.
Scanning a way up, Link found a good starting point and began the climb. With a few rocks passed and no imminent danger in sight, Link lowered his guard slightly and allowed himself a brief moment to relax. Sadly, this opened the floodgates for Darmani to enter.
The slight annoyance of having his momentary peace disturbed was reflected in the tone of his reply.
Link, we need to talk.
Link sighed, understandably, "I suppose we do."
Darmani waited a moment before starting, allowing Link to finish climbing the current rock he was on and acquire a steady footing.
Why do you find it so difficult to trust?
"Because..." a flash of faces flew through his mind, one cast in shadow lingered that Link recognised all too well, "Because I don't know who to believe."
Is belief and trust not simply two forms of the same word?
"Then I find it difficult to believe! Life is full of deception, doubt and falsehood. How can any of us live amongst these eternal, yet cruel, facts of life?"
There was a brief silence. Where his grip any stronger the stone in his hand would have been ground to dust. Instead, it fell from his loosening grip and echoed timelessly as it bounced again and again down the rocky slope.
Link; let me tell you a story. Once, a few years back, a pair of travellers had made their way to our village. They had spent the night on their way up, so we offered them a place to stay and food to help them recover. The following morning, we found the Elder's home robbed of all our treasures and heritage. Half of which we found in the possession of one of the travellers who remained in the room we provided them.
The rest of the village demanded he pay for the crime done while he constantly pleaded mercy and that he had been betrayed. Despite the cry of my fellow Gorons, I listened to the man and went to where he felt his companion may have fled to. We quickly found the thief and all that he had taken while he was talking to himself in glee about the man he left behind.
Link, what is the moral of this story?
"That trust leads to good things." Link answered dismissively.
No. Darmani said suddenly. No, it is that trust is a risk. As my fellow Gorons said, it could have easily been a trap and the rest of our tribe's history could have been stolen and never seen again. However, by taking the risk, we found the thief and brought him to justice. It is all a matter of a judgement call.
This does nothing to make trust, belief, faith, or whatever you might call it, any easier a thing to do, but there is a simple fundamental point to all of this. If we take the risk, things could go horribly wrong or incredibly right, but if we don't take the risk at all, nothing changes. Our belongings would never have been reclaimed. Tatl would never have warned you of the cracking ice.
You will never trust yourself to be free.
Climbing past the final stair, Link stood atop the ledge and stared ahead where a door confirmed the assumptions of the correct path. Link hardly acknowledged it, however. Nor did he look back to see the large distance he had covered by himself. Simply put, he stopped and stood at the pinnacle of the ledge.
A moment later and he mentally shook himself, then noticing Tatl's stare back at him. Breaking away from it Link moved towards the door and opened it to discover the all-too familiar setting of the main central room. Another ledge that he now stood on curved around the wall once ending directly above him some ways up. Maintaining a firm grip on the cold stone beneath him, the strange group moved in silence while the rusty cogs slowly creaked back to life.
One particular cog was the near-last thing Darmani had said. Without realising it at the time, he had trusted Tatl with his life as he crossed the bridge. It was possible to pass it off as an instinct of trusting his fairy companion, yet it now existed here and could not be denied that he had displayed trust despite his better judgement at the time!
Sadly, it remained a difficult thing to hold on to. So many times the risk had failed him in the worst ways imaginable to the point where he might as well have a scar to prove it. Ultimately, it was the fact that there was no guarantee that scared him the most. The almost fanatical want to control his own life is always destroyed by the uncertain manner of all others that could make or break him. If he took no risk, little would change. Was that so bad?
Yes, it would be.
Dreek had helped show him how bad he once was, so change seemed to be only a beneficial thing now. A change that was slowly revealing itself to him yet was also not nearly done. He would have to take a risk, then, and brave the unknown by trusting those he had no control over. It was not so much that he might lose everything if he did nothing, but instead to protect what he now had; a second chance, his freedom, Tatl.
...wait, Tatl? Did he just think that? The context made it out as if he trusted her completely but somewhere among the smoke and rust in his mind he still felt unsure. As the cogs went round and round, so too did Link realise his thoughts were doing the same, following a circle leading nowhere when an end was desperately needed.
Raising his head, Link found the end to a circle that happened to be made of stone and leading to a final door that stood tall and wide. The path just followed seemed to be steeper than first imagined as they were now quite close to the roof with no higher footing to hold on to. Beyond here would be the end, another goal found and waiting to be either accomplished or failed. Link would have to trust himself and risk the outcome on himself.
Unfortunately, this was still a problem.