THE SONG STILL SUNG
Chapter 2: Respective Legends
Everything happened at once – a typhoon of activity. The woman with the honey-blond hair took Zelda by the hand and pulled her inside the little house. A tall man in a bulky red coat shouted and scooped Link up in his arms. A man in black clothes followed the man in red, protesting loudly.
"We don't know who these people are, Spiky!" he yelled. "They could be after you!"
"He's in no position to do anything now!" the man in red shot back. "He's bleeding badly. I have to treat him…. Have to try…."
The other man sighed. "I'll go get the surgical kit."
"Wait!" Zelda cried, trying to follow the man in the big coat and Link, who was wincing and grunting in his arms, "Do you have any potions? Is there a fairy spring around here?"
"Fairy spring?" the man said, turning around. "N-no. Don't worry, Miss, I'll take care of him, okay?"
The man's face was so sad and so sincere. He proceeded into a bedroom, followed by the man in black, who closed the door behind them. Zelda moved to follow them, but found herself held back by the blond woman's strong arms.
"You don't wanna go in there…" she said ominously.
Another woman had her hand on Zelda's arm. She was a short woman with black hair. "Milly is right," she said. "You don't want to see them work. It will upset you more."
"I know!" Milly said. "Do you like tea? Meryl makes the best Ceylon tea. My, that's a pretty dress you have."
"Th-thanks," Zelda said, following the pair into the kitchen. She sat down at the table shakily, listening warily with her long ears to the noises coming from the bedroom.
Milly took a fresh cup from the cupboard and poured Zelda a cup of steaming tea. The tall woman smiled and gently patted her hand. "Don't worry, Mr. Vash is very good. He has to dig bullets out of himself all the time!"
"That's not very reassuring, Milly," the woman who was previously identified as Meryl, chided.
"Oh, my!" Milly gasped, "We haven't introduced ourselves! I'm Milly Thompson and this is Meryl."
"Meryl Stryfe," Meryl added, "of the Bernardelli Insurance Society. And you are?"
Zelda set her teacup down upon the table and stood up tall. She was not quite as tall as Milly, but taller than Meryl. Her gaze and the way she stood conveyed to Meryl a sense of power. The small woman felt like she was being towered over.
"I am Princess Zelda Harkinian Nohansen Hyrule, Crown Princess of Hyrule, soon to be Queen officially and Hyrule's sovereign. If this is a border-kingdom my knight and I have landed in, I request that your leaders be notified immediately. May I ask what kingdom this is? Forgive me, but I haven't had the luxury of travel in recent years, and especially with the recent Twilight Crisis… Is this Holodrum? Or Labrynna? Don't say that this is Termina…."
"Huh?" Milly asked. "We haven't heard of any of those places…but you're a princess? That's amazing!"
Meryl groaned and smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand. "Why is that while traveling with Vash we always run into the crazy ones?"
"You think I am mentally ill?" Zelda asked, sitting back down.
"We don't see a lot of princesses around here," Milly said. "My neighbor had a pony named Princess when I was a kid, but I think she's the only princess I've met! So do you have a lot of servants and get to live in a big castle?"
The vein on Meryl's forehead throbbed. "Milly…"
"I'd like to know where I am," Zelda said plainly.
Meryl sighed. "We're outside of New Philly on the boarder of the Salt Sand Sea."
"Mr. Vash insisted on coming out this way because he thinks there's something wrong with the city's Plant," Milly said. "He's been working as a Plant Engineer there for two weeks."
Confusion marked Zelda's features. "Vash…"
"Yes," Meryl said, her tone frustrated. "Milly had to give it away. We're hanging around with Vash the Stampede, so keep your mouth shut and you wont' get hurt. He's really an honorable guy once you get to know him. If you're here for his bounty, Mr. Wolfwood will probably hold your brother hostage until you forget about it."
"Isn't that guy your brother?" Milly asked. "You've both got the same ears!"
"No," Zelda said. "Link is…. My friend. Sort of. He's the Hero who saved my kingdom. If he wishes, I wish to make him my personal knight. I still don't know where we are. I've never seen a desert like what's outside – it makes the Gerudo Desert look small…"
"Ger-u-do?" Milly asked.
"Nevermind," Zelda said with a shake of her head. "Everything's different here. We're obviously not home."
"Then where are you from?"
"Hyrule, as I've said."
"A mythical kingdom in your head does not count," Meryl scolded. "Where are you really from?"
Zelda's eyes narrowed in a rare expression of anger. "I said we come from Hyrule. If you are going to be so uncooperative, I will go to your leaders myself, once I learn that my friend is not dead. We were making use of a magical artifact and it dumped us here on an apparent whim of the Goddesses. If this is another kingdom or another dimension, I will find out."
Zelda leaned back in her chair and sighed. "Yeah… it feels… different here. Nayru, we are in another dimension? The future?"
Meryl and Milly both looked at her strangely.
"She's probably just exhausted from stress, Meryl," Milly said kindly. "Don't judge her too harshly. She looks scuffed up and her friend got shot."
"Maybe it is just stress," Meryl conceded.
The bedroom door opened and the man in black shambled out, putting a cigarette to his lips and lighting it.
"How is he, Mr. Wolfwood?" Meryl asked cautiously.
"Well, he ain't dead," Wolfwood answered. "You can see him, but he's asleep."
Zelda entered the bedroom cautiously. The man in red, "Vash," she'd learned, was seated in a chair beside the bed, facing away from it, slumped over in sleep. A steel tray rested on a small desk next to him and upon it, small, sharp instruments in little ribbons of blood. Another tray rested next to that one, filled with pink liquid. A half-empty bottle of clear liquor sat next to it. Link's sword and shield rested against the desk and all of his clothing, including his boots and hat, lay in a heap in a corner.
Link lay in the bed behind Vash, a sheet pulled up to his chest. His right arm was outside it, by his side and his left arm was rested over his torso. He breathed softly and his eyelids fluttered gently. Light from a window cast upon his face, showing how pale he was. The tan of his skin was like a light wash of watercolor over clean paper – not the usual, rich character that she was used to seeing.
"Oh, Link…" Zelda whispered, taking his left hand in her own. She placed her right hand over it, so that the marks of the Triforce they each had met. The Triforce of Wisdom mark glowed briefly and then returned to normal. In that moment, Zelda knew that he was dreaming about his home in Ordon – the forest and the handsome blue goats the people raised there. It was a peaceful dream.
A dream you deserve, she thought to herself.
She startled slightly as Vash stirred. He raised his head and rubbed at this spiky hair. "Oh, it's you," he said. "He's going to be alright… I think. I got the bullet out safely. I thought about leaving it in, but it was pressed up against something important, so it was best to risk taking it out. It missed everything vital, but he would have bled to death if he wasn't closed up."
"Thank you… Thank you so much, sir," Zelda said, rubbing Link's hand.
"It will take a while for his blood to rebuild. I know how nasty that can be – from experience actually." At this, Vash gave an odd little laugh, as though he was desperate to diffuse the sadness hanging in the air of the room. "I'm sure Milly will share some of her pudding for him to eat while he recovers. I tried to remove the…um… costume-ears, but…"
"Yeah, that. That's very strange… a shape like that. Are you two related?"
"Are you sure? That's got to be a rare genetic anomaly."
"I take it there are no Hylians in this kingdom. Where we come from, long ears are a noble birthright."
Zelda and Vash looked at each other for a moment. Zelda was sure she sensed something, a sort of buzzing sensation. She could feel a distinct aura from this man – that he was not what he seemed to be. She sensed a lot of melancholy, confusion, humor, and deep, deep love – not so much of the romantic stripe as something expansive. The look he was giving her told her that he was someone who was used to "difference" – that, indeed, there was something "different" about him, and thus his acceptance of people who were different was fairly easy. He seemed confounded, but not nearly as put off by her appearance and presence as the others.
It was as though he knew instinctively that she and Link were from some other world but did not care in the least.
"He's going to sleep for a while. Wolfwood drugged him to make the surgery easier and to put him out of pain."
"He is dreaming."
"Nice dreams, I hope. So, what happened to you two?"
"Link and I… we were home… our home. We had uncovered an ancient artifact with dubious powers and were examining it. Actually, it was a musical instrument that belonged to Link's ancestor…."
"Do you mean this?" Vash asked. He reached into his coat and pulled out a small blue ocarina. It was cracked, the same crack that Zelda had previously repaired. He put it to his lips.
"No! Don't!" Zelda cried.
A few discordant toots and a warble. Vash smiled fondly and handed the Ocarina of Time to Zelda. "I'm kinda tone-deaf, actually," he said. "I never could play flute. I tried guitar a few times when I was drunk, and Wolfwood says I scare all the stray cats when I try to sing."
Zelda sighed in relief. If the thing had the power to transport her and Link to this other world, there was no telling what some random person playing it might do – but it was cracked, just as it was before. There, also, went her hopes for figuring out a quick return to Hyrule from… wherever this place was. As she held the instrument in her hands, she could tell that its magic was currently dead. She gently set it down atop Link's bloodstained clothing. She choked down the urge to cry. She was a princess, so she had to keep her decorum at all times.
"Link said that this disappeared, that it vanished."
"It's the darndest thing," Vash said. "I found it in my coat, just suddenly there. Felt the lump in my coat just as Milly found you two at the door."
"We found ourselves here," Zelda said bluntly, returning her attention to Vash. "Out in the middle of the desert over the hill out to the east. Three men came to us in a carriage of some manner. They wanted to take us – they seemed to want Link's organs for some reason and as for me…. It is not ladylike to talk of such things."
"I see," Vash said sadly. "Probably either an off branch of the Rodricks or the Del Marco gang. The Del Marcoes have been running close to this area of late. They do black market organ-trading for wealthy men who do not care about where transplants come from. And well… any women and children they are able to subdue they like to take for the slave market…Wolfwood and I have busted many of their caravans."
Zelda, trying not to show her lack of understanding of some of the concepts Vash talked about (transplanting organs?) continued her story. "They surrounded us and drew out these little hand-canons. Link fought them off. He's a brilliant swordsman."
"Hand-canons?" Vash questioned.
Zelda motioned with her right hand, pretending she was holding an invisible pistol.
"Oh, you mean this," Vash said, drawing his AGL ARMS Factory Longcolt from the holster on his belt.
"Theirs were different, but yes," Zelda said.
"You've never seen a gun before?" Vash asked incredulously.
"No," Zelda answered. "Not like that. I've seen canons, heavy artillery canons – but nothing handheld like that."
"You don't say," Vash said, "You really must be from another world, or a really isolated little town at least. You didn't hit your head recently, did you?"
"Sir Vash, I am not crazy. These are matters of magic, obviously."
"Please, believe me, Sir Vash," Zelda said. "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving my friend."
She reached out and touched his right hand. In that moment, time stood still. Their thoughts exchanged like electricity and ran in rapid pace. The Triforce of Wisdom connected with something inside of Vash and for a split second, Zelda knew who he was and where they were.
No Man's Land. Planet Gunsmoke. Desert with small patches of terraforming by Geoplants.
Geoplant. A subspecies of the species "Plant" – living subjects used for power, lighting, water, heat, cooling, industry and fertility. That upon which the people of this world depend for survival.
We are all like raindrops falling from the sky… dried up by the heat of the sun.
Crash. The Big Fall. Rem. Rem, don't leave! Please don't leave us!
Elruhye… We are from Elruhye, like you, ancient one. Help us. Save us.
Millions of Knives.
"Vash the Stampede, wanted for Sixty-Billion Double Dollars Dead or Alive. The Humanoid Typhoon. The Angel of Death. Gentle Grim Reaper. Destroyer of July and Augusta.
Scars, so many scars.
Zelda broke off the connection, taking her hand back and shaking her head vigorously. "I am dreadfully sorry!" she apologized. "I am not sure what happened."
"You come from a beautiful, green kingdom," Vash said, smiling. "I'd love to visit it someday."
Wolfwood was disturbed from his sleep. There were noises coming from the kitchen. At first he'd written it off as another one of Milly's late-night instant-flan cravings but the footsteps he heard were not quite loud enough to be hers.
"Rotten needle-noggin," he grumbled. At least Vash had let him have the bed to himself. The girls shared a room and Vash's room was now being occupied by the almost-dead kid with the weird elf ears and the self-proclaimed "princess." Vash and Milly seemed to like her, but he was with Meryl on this – she was clearly insane. Vash decided to take the living room couch. He didn't like the cigarette-smell of Wolfwood's room and he said that whenever they had to bunk together that Milly sometimes got… ideas. Whatever that meant.
He took the pistol on his nightstand – one of the many he usually kept in the Punisher, and crept toward the kitchen. The light was on.
"Broom-headed idiot, is that you?" he called out.
When he got no answer, he burst through the door with his gun drawn only to yell in shock. Everyone else in the house came running to the kitchen.
"What's going on?" Milly asked sleepily, rubbing her eyes.
Upon the table was another of Wolfwood's pistols, only completely dismantled, its parts resting atop it in a neat and organized fashion. A gun, carefully dissected. A plate rested near the gun-parts and upon it was a raw steak, thinly sliced. Sitting in a chair at the table was Link, clad only in his pants and a thick bandage wound around his middle. He had a little piece of steak-sashimi in his mouth. He looked up at Wolfwood like a confused puppy.
"What is going on here?" Wolfwood demanded. "That's one of my guns all over the table! And that was my steak! I was saving that! And why in Heaven's name are you eating it raw? Just what the Hell is going on here?"
Link slurped up the steak piece he was in the middle of eating, causing everyone else in the room to wince. "I'm very sorry. I had no idea it was yours. I figured out the puzzle to make the torches light in this room and then I went to that cold box and found the meat there. I was very hungry. I tend to crave meat whenever I get hurt… I didn't think this was the best place to start a fire, so… Well, let's just say I was put into a situation not long ago where I had to get used to eating everything raw, so it doesn't bother me. As for this…"
Link swiftly grabbed up the parts to Wolfwood's dismantled weapon and reassembled them. He held the unloaded gun in his left hand and looked at it proudly. Everyone's jaw dropped, except for Zelda's.
"How did you do that?" Milly gasped, "You're so good!"
Wolfwood stared. "That was the fastest time… I've seen anybody…"
Zelda came up behind Link and touched his shoulders. She smiled proudly. "The 'gun' is a weapon, correct? My Link here has a rather special connection to weapons. Even a weapon he has never seen before, upon touching it, he can gain an intimate knowledge of how it works. It is an ability that seems to be passed down to the Heroes of our land."
"I found it out here on the table and wanted to see how it worked, so I took it apart," Link said humbly. "I hope I have not caused you too much trouble."
"You should get back in bed," Vash said. "I'm glad to see you apparently feeling better, but you really shouldn't be up yet. You shouldn't be eating steak either. I'll bring you some pudding. You shouldn't strain yourself."
"This from a man who's checked out of every clinic he's ever been in early," Meryl said, exasperated.
"I was saving this to make bell peppers and beef," Wolfwood moaned, examining the remains of his half-gone steak.
Vash helped Link up and out of the room. A few minutes later, a flushing sound was heard.
"My Din! Zelda, you've got to come in here and see this! It's like a little whirlpool!"
"Looks like Mr. Vash showed him to the bathroom!" Milly chimed.
"Let me guess," Meryl groaned, looking to Zelda. "No indoor plumbing where you live?"
Zelda did not quite know what to say.
TURN TO THE NEXT!
There actually is nothing particularly special going on with the Ocarina of Time here. I was going over this chapter and looking in on the last chapter when I realized I'd forgotten about it vanishing in the last chapter. I had already written Vash trying to play it and enjoyed that image, so I had to come up with a quick excuse for it being there.