Chapter 9: Since I've Found Serenity
The scene could not have been more perfect – like a divine ordinance. When the lead wagon crested the rise, the air damp after a short spate of rain, the gray clouds rode the sky like heaven-bound ships. Sunlight pierced one to land upon the Valley, painting its already golden autumn grasses in a sheen of brighter gold. The mountains beyond it were blue in the distance.
The caravan had been through many hardships – injuries, sickness that almost took them all, a fierce battle, poor weather, the edge of starvation, the loss of oxen, horses, and the loss of one unfortunate young man. Now, they were here. They had reached the Promised Land.
Down into the Serenity Valley the wagons rolled, their occupants scarcely believing they had actually made it. Link rode next to Ilia, ahead of the lead wagon on a sturdy Hylian mustang named Rhiannon. He had an easy grace about him, the kind gained from having been here and done this many times before.
Link saw fit to lead them toward the outpost town of Random. It was in this place that people could supply and get something decent to eat, and find a decent place to rest for a few days before everyone separated, each family or couple's wagon going its own way. There were many who wished to procure lumber right away to start building simple houses somewhere on the vast Valley floor.
"You can stake out any land for yourself around here," he said with a smile, turning to Ilia. "Anything you can reasonably defend. Winter will set in soon, though, which is not good for building, but strangely enough, good for judging a property. Any land that's good in the winter will be good year-round."
Ilia's gelding plodded along at a steady pace beneath her. "And where will you go?"
"I think I'll winter with the Lins again," Link replied.
"The Lin Ranch. Some of the first settlers I lead here. Taylin and Maylin. They raise horses and milk-cattle. I've spent some of my winters camping alone, finding a cozy cave somewhere or… as a wolf. It's too late for me to winter with the Gerudo. I've spent a couple of winters with the Lins. They like me. I help them out in exchange for the stay. It might be a good place for you to winter, too – you'll get to see how a Serenity Valley ranch works before making preparations to start your own."
"I think I'd like that… if they'll have me."
"Oh, they're real warm-hearted folks."
"Will you leave in the spring?"
"I usually do. I do have to see the Tantari Tribe as soon as I can. I need to inform Brandon's lover of what happened to him."
"His spirit has moved on, hasn't it?"
"Yes. He wouldn't know if I reneged on my promise, but I'd know. I have to keep my promise."
"I wonder just where everyone will go," Ilia mused. "It's so vast and we were… kind of like a family for a while. Dysfunctional at times and very quirky, but a family."
"There are people here from when the land was first purchased," Link said, "Lots of people I've led here, lots of people led by other guides, and some lucky fools who came on their own. There are even people from Labrynna here – from the other boarder. There is still room, though, lots of room to spread out. Who knows? Some of the more adventurous folk in our party might turn back the way we came and go for the rougher plains. This valley is very fertile, though… the easiest place to make a new life."
"Some folks may take up the hunting and gathering life, like the Gerudo… or like you, but that's not for me. I want horses. Lots of horses. I want to breed the best horses in all of Hyrule. I'll need help, though. The Taylors and the Flakes already want to homestead together, make a big farm, but they want to raise corn and vegetables, a few cattle… Sherry and Terri could probably use the work, but I bet it'd be mighty strange living as a single woman bunking with a happy couple. Probably better than with Shad and Ashei, though, if they ever came to settle – I know those two would treat me like their kid." At this, she stuck out her tongue. Link laughed.
Ilia continued. "Sam's a caravan-man. He's going to head off as soon as he can to get more work as a trail boss. Colin wants to go off and be an explorer – take up a job like yours."
"I imagine he'll ride with me when I go back to the Tantari Tribe. He's… a bit lovesick for a girl there."
"I hope you warned him about that."
"I did. He's been bugging me for everything I know about Gerudo culture – beyond what we already saw when we camped with them."
"The Zoras would be no good on a horse ranch… they're going to seek out the rivers and springs."
"There's a small lake near here, on the other side of those mountains."
"Perfect. Rock… I don't know what's with him. He barely survived the Stone Dagger Pass for the cold, and he up and wants to start a settlement in the mountains and name it after some revered ancient leader of the Gorons – Dar-Dar….something."
"Darunia?" Link offered, "He was the ancient Sage of Fire. Some think those Sages are just a legend, awakened in a world-that-never-was, but, no… they were awakened all the same."
"How would you know?"
"I just do… saw it in a dream, I think – a dream that felt real. Another life, perhaps."
Ilia stared at Link. The words of the old Gerudo healer-woman came to her – her talk of Heroes and reincarnation. She shook her head before looking forward.
"That and I've met other Sages, the ones currently keeping the wisdom of Hyrule. They seemed to know who the 'mortal Sages' were. The legends are true, according to them."
"Ah. Met during the Twilight War I take it?"
"Yes, though Hyrule is bereft the Sage of Water. That one was slain by Ganondorf, but still exists somewhere as a spirit."
"I am trying to remember the old stories Rusl used to tell us…" Ilia began, "There were seven Sages taken from Hyrule's races – some races that are among us, and some that are currently extinct. There was a leader of them, the Princess of Destiny, I think – the ancient Queen Zelda. One was of Light, one of the first Hylians. One was of Shadow, of the now-extinct Sheikah ethnic group. One was of Fire, a Goron. One was of Water, a Zora. One was a little Kokiri – Sage of Forest, right? And, yes, the ancient Gerudo leader, Nabooru… oh, poor Nabooru! Oh, Link, an old woman of the Tanatri Tribe told me all about her!"
"She was brave," was all Link had to say about that. "As for Rock's settlement," he continued, "It makes perfect sense to me. Gorons don't like the cold, but if a mountain has the right minerals, they'd be willing to take it. He's a prospector – looking for a place with a reasonable food supply to support a grouping of his people."
The two looked quietly out over the rolling plains and to the various mountains and lines of forest beyond. Link coughed and cleared his throat. "This place will all be settled-in eventually," he said with a touch of sadness. "I've watched Random and the homesteads around it grow. It's just going to grow more. A large part of me would like to see it stay wilderness forever…"
"Even Hyrule-proper has wilderness," Ilia offered.
"Patches of it, and all over ruins. Hyrule-proper is ancient. This is fresh. It won't stay fresh."
"Less world for a wolf to run."
"Exactly. But… the people of Hyrule… will have room to grow. These lands are a very good thing for our people." Link gestured toward the distant mountains and to the gold-lighted grasses. "Think about it, Ilia. One day, there will be cities and towns everywhere. People will build them, building their dreams. People who cannot afford dreams back home will be able to have them here – people who are brave, and our people… our people are brave. People will name the cities after that which is important to them – probably those ancient Sages. The town of Darunia will be first, of course, if Rock gets his way… then Nabooru, Saria by one of the great rivers…"
"You are imagining quite a lot."
"I have the space to."
"So, where's this Lin ranch?"
Another pause. They listened to the sound of the horses' hooves beneath them, plodding gently and to the creak of the caravan wagons, now somewhat distant behind them.
"I don't think I want to be alone anymore," Link said suddenly.
"You said you'd need help building your ranch. I think I want to help you."
"Yeah," the man sighed. "Epona's getting stiff in the joints. She could use a retirement, a nice place to stay. I cannot say I can ever give up wandering completely. I have my relationship with the Tantari Tribe – I need to keep on good terms with them. Also, there are my instincts from being another species. I am going to be vanishing for weeks or months at a time, now. I'll always let you know when the wanderlust hits and make sure you're going to be okay on your own, but if it's okay with you, can you do that? When a wolf meanders home to scratch at your door, will you let him in?"
"Of course," Ilia said with the broadest smile imaginable. "And I'll bend down to hug him, and pet him, and I'll have a warm bed ready for his cold, aching bones as long as he tries to keep the fleas off it."
Link smiled gratefully.
"Does this mean your heart is ready? I heard that you lost someone long ago."
"I did," Link said. "But yes, my heart is ready to no longer be lonely. "When I first retreated to these wild lands, I was searching for something – specifically for a way to return to someone. I never found it, but I found… so much more over the years – more than I ever could have imagined. I suppose life is like that, and dreams. Many are they that set out with one dream and end up with another."
Ilia smiled at him. "Then let's dream together."
The party has reached its destination, but the future is ever open.
The trail will wind ever onward, always forward.