In life, Garrett Fletcher had been no one of importance.
He had a small bomb shop in Castle Town. He knew a few Gorons who sold him the raw materials for his wares.
There were other merchants with far larger shops than his. He had merely a small window on the first floor of his cramped house through which he chatted, bartered, and argued with his customers.
He had mentioned a few times to his Goron friends that he might move to the foot of the mountain to serve the small hamlets there. It would be cheaper than Castle Town. He could build his own home, and wouldn't need to pay rent. The Gorons already got money from the materials they sold him, so they wouldn't need to charge the tax that the Hylian King put on all manufactured supplies.
His friend Osu, quite rotund even for Goron standards (Garrett suspected he ate half the rocks he mined), laughed heartily over the discussion in Osu's cavelike home. Garrett's house was too small to accommodate him. "That's treason, old friend. You could charge much lower prices than the merchants in town. And the tax…"
Garrett waved his hand in impatience. "Journey all the way out here for bombs? I doubt it. I understand the tax, I just don't need any of the things that it pays for. No horse to ride on cobblestone roads that constantly need fixing. I'll dig my own well, no need to finance the payment to the Zora for their levy on the waters from their domain. The shop would be in your patriarch's domain, anyway."
Osu frowned. "Aye, but Darunia's a close ally of the Hylian King. He won't allow anything that upsets him."
"Who cares about a small-time merchant?"
"I don't know…"
Garrett smiled. "Don't worry about it, Osu. It's just an idea, a dream. I doubt anything will come of it."
Garrett was a loner, a bachelor, who frequently closed his shop to travel throughout the countryside. His Goron friends knew him to grab hold of an idea, run with it, then drop it like too much baggage when he got tired.
His disappearance might never have been marked by anyone, except for a few chance factors.
His cell door had been left unlocked by another freethinker, who disapproved of the role she had been given.
The Gerudo still traveled to Castle Town looking for luck in love, even though their King had reached maturity.
Garrett's body bore obvious marks of torture, as opposed to mauling by animals or monsters. It held the Gerudo's attention long enough to hear his last words.
A hidden town behind the mountain.
Of the six Gerudo who found Garrett, only two returned home. The tale they told chilled the bones of even their most experienced warriors. Blood-spattered walls, the cries of prisoners taken in peacetime, horrible monsters beyond description. They had entered the underworld itself, tended by the Shekiah with the full knowledge - nay, the orders - of the Hylian King.
The Gerudo King demanded an apology for the deaths of his people.
The Hylian King refused, stating they had trespassed on the Shekiah's land.
A dissident Shekiah announced that they had taken the wrong man, on the orders of the Hylian King.
The Goron Patriarch apologized to the Gerudo King, saying he had reported Garrett, upon receiving misinformation that Garrett planned to stockpile bombs for sedition.
Regardless, the secret was out.
The Zora and Gorons did not believe that even half of the Gerudo's tale was true. But they pulled away from the Hylian King.
The Hylian King called on the leaders of the Zora and Gorons to stand by him, for fear they would turn against him. He promised transparency in return for the unification of Hyrule under him.
The Gerudo struck back, stating officially that they would follow the Hylians' law, but convincing people throughout Hyrule that they should rebel.
Within each race, factions emerged.
The Korkiri found increasing numbers of strangers entering their forests, seeking shelter from the oncoming storm.
So began the Fierce War.
Relo bowed low before the statue of Nayru carved in turquoise, then placed an offering of watercress and fish roe on the altar at her feet. The statue stood maybe about half as tall as he was, and her flowing robes demonstrated the artistic style of the Zora ancients. This enormous stone, with veins of soapstone accentuating the folds in the blue-green dress, had been found in the cenote cavern that had served as the base of the Water Temple. In one hand Nayru held an hourglass, and in the other she held an owl. The Triforce symbol stood out prominently on the altar, with her triangle finished in gold leaf.
How long he stood in the main chamber, Relo did not know. The Zora priestess who maintained the huge meditation room at the center of the temple said nothing as she tended to the pipes that kept the water flowing at a soft, steady stream, assisting the pilgrim in his or her intimate conversation with the Goddess.
The priestess watched the water flow, then pulled a lever slightly on her left. This lever shifted the water level in Lake Hylia, where the Water Temple rested. The ancient scriptures stated that Nayru had come to a young Zora in a dream, ages ago, and instructed him to build this temple. That young man later became their first King.
Finished, Relo bowed once more to the statue and then nodded his head in respect toward the priestess as he left the room. She returned it with a smile, then returned to her duty of watching the Everlasting Waves.
It was a long swim/walk back to the entrance. This had been part of the architect's - or rather, Nayru's - plan. This way, one did not approach the Goddess with a spirit tainted by anger or haste. The temple itself was a method of meditation, and every Zora who went in came back out refreshed.
Just as Relo reached the three-tiered tower that sat in the last room before the entrance, he glanced down into the water and nearly jumped out of his skin.
A monster stood down on the bottom, a leathery brown thing with a round head. It looked vaguely like a person, and walked on two feet like one. Relo's mind immediately jumped to the tales of zombies that haunted some of Hyrule's holiest places, and he scrambled backward. Then he saw the string.
Some sort of rope came out the side of the head and traveled all the way up the side of the temple to the entrance. Relo stopped panicking and edged closer for a better look. The creature ambled along in no apparent hurry, and after a few minutes, it glanced up and waved at him in a friendly manner.
Relo stepped into the water, taken aback but curious. This was no monster; but then, what was it?
"Why, hello there, old friend," said a familiar voice from a little grille just below the "face". "Didn't recognize me in this get-up, did you, Relo?"
Relo peered into the hatch marks that made up the "face". He could barely see two eyes twinkling at him through glass. "Dr. Mizumi?"
The old man laughed with relish. "Gave you a scare, did I, Relo?"
Relo laughed too, out of relief as well as amusement. "What in the name of the Goddesses is that thing, Dr. Mizumi?"
"This," Dr. Mizumi said proudly, extending his arms and turning in a circle, "is a Zora Suit. Or Diving Suit. I haven't really decided what to call it yet."
"Not a Zora Suit! You look more like a ReDead than a Zora!"
Dr. Mizumi made a mock-angry face that Relo couldn't see. "That's a fine thing to say! For the first time in twenty years I've been able to come into this temple again. I'm too old to be swimming around like a fish! Er, though, I do have to admit I don't look much like a Zora."
"What's the tail for?" Relo asked, pointing to the rope.
"Careful with that! That's my air line. I need it to breathe!"
Relo frowned at it. "And you just have it sitting on the shore outside? What if you accidentally pull it in?"
"No worries. My young apprentice is back on shore, making sure I don't drown. I have to give him a signal every few minutes to let him know I'm alive." He made three short tugs on the hose. "He has explicit instructions to pull the whole thing in as fast as he can if I don't respond."
"I see age hasn't taken away your taste for adventure," Relo said with a grin.
"Research, Relo, Research," Dr. Mizumi said sagely. "This lake holds many mysteries, and I'm more than happy to while my life away examining them."
Relo frowned. "It doesn't pay to disregard the Goddess."
Dr. Mizumi made an indelicate sound. "How am I disregarding her if I'm looking more closely at her treasures? I don't have to be a fish-person to appreciate them. Besides," he said with a chuckle, "you know I'd never tell the rest of Hyrule who really controls the flow of the river. "
"It's not just a lie," Relo said, crossing his arms. "Nayru chose us to build the Temple."
"And I'm not saying you don't deserve that honor, old friend." He clasped Relo on the shoulder, as well as he could in the bulky suit. "No worries. I won't tell any of your secrets. I have no interest in politics."
Relo let out a sigh. "Sorry, Dr. Mizumi. The Hylian King has been acting so aggressive, it's starting to worry us. I don't see why we have to be 'united'. Does he even understand how Zora society works?"
"Probably not. But as I said, I care nothing for politics, and I don't know of anybody else who could come in here."
"What about your apprentice?" Relo asked it with much more trepidation than he'd meant, but there was no taking it back.
Dr. Mizumi gave him a long look. "I trust my apprentice," he said at last. "But don't worry. I won't do anything that might betray our friendship…or your people."
Relo breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Dr. Mizumi. I'm so sorry, it's just a sign of the times…"
Dr. Mizumi shrugged it off. "No need for apologies. I don't know what the King is thinking. Don't pretend to, either. Like I said, politics don't interest me."
This time someone on the other end of the hose made three sharp tugs. "That's my signal to go back," Dr. Mizumi said. "Can't stay in this thing too long…I've only tested it in the tank beneath my house. See you later, Relo." He pulled a little string and a series of little balloons inflated, carrying him to the entrance in comical fashion. Relo laughed as he waved good-bye to his friend.
Dr. Mizumi stumbled onto the shoreline, pulling at the helmet. "Confounded thing! Boy, help me out here."
His apprentice stepped forward and gripped the helmet in both hands. "How did it work, sir?"
"Beautifully, Tahm, beautifully." Dr. Mizumi slowly pulled off the suit and handed it to the young boy, an up-and-coming scholar from the castle town. Tahm carefully packed up the air pump he had been using all this time, rubbing his sore arms.
"Could I have a try at the diving suit?" He asked.
"Soon." Dr. Mizumi walked a little unsteadily. "I don't want to risk you getting hurt. If something happens to an old man like me, it doesn't matter, but I'd hate to see you drown because I wasn't careful."
"You're not that old, sir. You used to swim in there by yourself, didn't you, sir?"
Dr. Mizumi arched his back; a series of crackling sounds ran up his spine, and he winced. "Years ago, lad. And I had to train myself to hold my breath that long. Plus, it would make me sick sometimes. Still haven't pinned down what does that."
Tahm picked up the discarded suit and tucked it under his arm, with the pump in his opposite hand. He offered his elbow to Dr. Mizumi, who took it. "Should I get a healing potion from Selina?"
Dr. Mizumi shook his head. "I don't want her going to the Lost Woods for ingredients unless it's absolutely necessary. Something has angered its guardian spirit; many people who have gone in and not returned as of late, and more Stalfos have been patrolling its borders at night."
Shivering, Tahm led Dr. Mizumi back to his house, a two-story cottage that was actually more research facility than home. Both slept upstairs, in separate tiny rooms. "Go ahead and sleep, sir," said Tahm. "I'll put away the equipment for you."
"That's a good lad," Dr. Mizumi muttered, inching up the stairway.
Tahm waited until he heard the bedsprings squeak and Dr. Mizumi's contented sigh. Then he gathered up the suit and pump and crept out the door, closing it softly behind him.
Dr. Mizumi awoke very late the next day, and groaned in pain as he sat up. "Tahm, lad, bring me a bit of tea, will you?" he called out.
No answer. "Tahm? Tahm!" Slowly, painfully, he got out of the bed. Shuffling over to the boy's room, he peered inside. The bed had not been slept in all night.
Concerned, Dr. Mizumi inched his way down the stairs until he stepped into the lab. The pump and diving suit lay sprawled across the floor in a puddle of water. First Dr. Mizumi breathed a sigh of relief, satisfied that Tahm had not gone off and drowned in the Temple in an attempt to explore by himself. Then he groaned and growled to himself as he attempted to clean up, placing the helmet on a shelf, stretching out the suit so that it would dry, and mopping up the water on the floor.
Still no sign of Tahm. "Drat that boy, where's he gone?" Dr. Mizumi asked nobody in particular. He stepped out of the house, scanning the lake. No sign of anyone.
Now he felt anger starting to rise inside him. The boy wasn't hurt, presumably, but where had he gone? Why hadn't he put away the diving equipment?
He spotted his neighbor, a fisherman, walking to the lake from Hyrule Field. "Hello there!" Dr. Mizumi called out. "Have you seen my apprentice?"
The neighbor stopped, his fishing pole swinging over his shoulder. "I have, friend," he called back. "I was coming back from the castle town, and he was walking toward it, in the fields. I figured he was on some errand of yours so I didn't say anything."
"What's wrong with him?" Dr. Mizumi thundered. "If he wanted a day off to see his parents, I would have granted it. He's going to get himself hurt, sneaking off in the middle of the night."
Jerking his thumb over his shoulder, the neighbor asked, "Want me to go see if I can find him?"
Dr. Mizumi shook his head. "I don't want you putting yourself in danger. I'll just have to wait and see if he returns."
He turned round and went back into the house, slamming the door. Sitting down on a little stool near his equipment, he inspected the diving suit. Strange, he thought to himself. There's a little tear in the left glove. I know I didn't do it…
…Did Tahm take this out last night? And if so, why? He's not so spontaneous as to disobey me just for the sake of curiosity…is he?
Three weeks later, Tahm had still not returned. Dr. Mizumi, washing his hands of him, sent off a letter to the castle requesting another apprentice. So when a knock came at the door, Dr. Mizumi opened it eagerly.
"Oh, I'm glad to see they finally…what is this?"
Two knights stood there, along with a palace messenger, and behind them stood Tahm. "What's going on?" Dr. Mizumi demanded.
The palace messenger, dressed in plain but fine silks with a little feather in his hat and the Royal Family's emblem on his chest, unrolled a scroll and began reading in a loud voice that bit harsh in the soft summer evening. "His Royal Majesty, King Harakan Hyrule III, has seized this property under the Land Law 342.5, which states that any Building, Dwelling, or Machine that poses a threat to Crown Property can be Seized in the Name of the King, if it is in any of the Provinces governed by the Hylian Throne. As this lake was annexed to the Crown Property of Hyrule during the Fifth Zora Treaty, the Temple which controls the water level is now under the sole control of His Majesty. Long Live the King."
Dr. Mizumi merely stood, mouth agape. The messenger rolled up his scroll and said in more normal tones, "This merely says that the King controls the Temple and the lake's water levels right now." He motioned toward Tahm. "This young man described the setup to His Highness, and he has been authorized to outfit the structure with mechanics that will allow him to control the lake under the King's orders."
Tahm stepped forward, a proud smile on his face. "Well, what do you think? You wanted me to study the lake so that we could get as much benefit from it as possible. Now that it's in the hands of the King instead of the Zora, we don't have to worry about them flooding us in a fit of pique."
"You fool!" Dr. Mizumi stepped forward but was quickly restrained by the knights. "Do you realize what you've done? And why in the name of Nayru would the Zora do something like that?"
Tahm scowled at him. "You've been sitting in this little cottage staring at algae for too long, Dr. Mizumi. Haven't you been paying attention? The other races have been suspicious of us ever since the Shekiah caught the wrong man. I'm not saying anything against your friends…I don't think they would do anything bad. But the Temple's better off in the hands of the King."
"Better off for who?" Dr. Mizumi spluttered. "Do you really care, or was this just some clever maneuvering on your part to better your own position?"
With a snort, Tahm answered, "Nothing has really changed. It'll just be me switching the Temple's water levels instead of some priestess. Does she really know what she's doing? Does she really think she's acting on Nayru's orders? Better to have us do it, and cut out all the smoke and mirrors. When people say they act on behalf of the gods, bad things often happen."
Dr. Mizumi sighed. "That may be so…but I don't see why we had to take it by force. It's their temple, after all. Perhaps the Zora King would have been happy enough to allow us entry."
Tahm shrugged. "Who knows? You said yourself you don't care for politics, and I didn't want it getting in the way of our farmers' fields and the drinking water in the town. It's not like the Zora aren't allowed in their own Temple; they just can't control it anymore. And the King has assured me that the Zora royalty will be given the ability to control it as well…as long as they remain allies."
"As long as they remain allies."
"Would you really want your enemies dictating whether or not your people have enough to drink?"
Dr. Mizumi raised his hands in surrender. "All right, my boy, all right. You've defeated me with a masterful argument. I only wish it had been about something else. I'll get my things." He turned to go back into the house.
"You don't have to leave," Tahm told him. "Like I've said, nothing's really changed. It's still your house."
"With all due respect, boy," Dr. Mizumi called back, "I think I'm going to spend some time at Selina's for a while."
He said nothing about it, but more than anything, he did not think he would be able to stand Relo's accusing stare, the inevitable question of why he had betrayed him.