"Momma, where's Papa?" On an island miles outside of Skyloft's reach, two blue eyes stared innocently up at their mother.
Aera squeezed her five-year-old son's hand gently in response, her eyes searching the smoldering land in front of her. She knew where Hawlo was: in the embers. In the smoke curling up into the distant night, lost in a fire with the rest of their small town. She stood on the only portion of the island left unscathed, protected by the water of the small stream cutting through the otherwise flat, dry land. Her and her son had escaped the hungry flames, and had missed the piercing screams that undoubtedly rang out not an hour earlier. They had been picking herbs on the adjacent island, connected to Wind's Breath by a small rope bridge. Surrounded by trees and protected by a small waterfall, they escaped the sounds of death.
Aera realized that her son was still expecting an answer. What could she say? Grief overwhelmed her for a moment, but she pushed it down into the depths of her heart. Her son needed her to be strong. "He'll be back soon, Link. Don't worry." The brunette choked out. He was still so small, how could she explain to him that his papa was dead, gone, never to return? That they couldn't go on living here with the farms burned? She couldn't. If he began to cry, she would too. Only she wouldn't stop. She went to take a breath, only to cough at the horrible stench filling her nose. It stank of burning flesh, dead things, and smoke. She nearly retched at the thought that her son currently smelled the same. She needed to get him out of there. Aera crouched down and stroked the blond boy's cheek. "Me and you need to leave right now, OK?"
"OK, Momma. Where are we gonna go?" The dim light from the embers lit Link's face at strange angles, making his round cheeks seem hollow and empty.
Aera picked up her son and turned towards the only thing that had survived the hungry flames: the bird barn. "To Skyloft, sweetie."
The barn housed the only loftwing in their small town, one her husband brought from the academy when he came to Wind's Breath. Hawlo soon learned that his bird riding skills had little to no use in the farming village, so he built a barn to house it. The man was the only one with the skill to ride the thing, and had taught his wife a bare minimum, insisting she would never need to fly it, save in an emergency. Somehow, the thought never occurred to either of them that he might not be there.
Link sat up in his mother's arms, eyes wide with excitement. "Really? On the birdy? Cool! Is Papa gonna meet us there?" Goddess, how he looked like his father. Both had the same blue eyes, same sandy-blond hair, same smile. They were both brave, talkative, kind, sweet, loving. Aera felt a lump rise in her throat. She couldn't lose it, not yet.
"S-stop wiggling, sweetie." Aera cradled Link further into her shoulder. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She tucked Link's face down with her hand, not wanting him to see the disaster behind them. The brunette thanked the goddess that her son was still too young to know what was happening. Had been only that morning when she woke up next to her husband, with his beautiful blue eyes and sandy blond hair? Her own eyes were green, and her hair a rich brown. They had been a happy family, living in a peaceful village. It seemed like such a long time ago, when she had felt happiness. Now there was only horror.
Aera snapped to attention as she reached the outer fence of the barn. She paused for a moment, unsure if she should bring Link inside or not. If she didn't, she risked him wandering away into the fire. If she did, the loftwing, which was probably very unstable right now, could hurt him.
"Link, baby, sit out here." Aera set her son down on the ground. She put her hands on his shoulders and turned him away from the remains of their home, and met his eyes for the first time that night. "Don't move from this spot, OK? Do as Momma says, and don't move." He was well behaved; he would listen to his mother.
"But what if I hear Papa coming?" The blond boy asked from his position on the ground.
"Do as I say!" Aera shook Link slightly, and his eyes widened in fear. She took another deep breath to calm herself; now was not the time to scare him. "Please, please, Link." She pleaded, the grief threatening to surface. "Just don't move."
Link nodded, looking at his mother's haggard face with concern. Aera gave her son a strained smile, and then turned to the barn. She slid the door open slowly, not wanting to frighten the animal inside.
The loftwing was green, and usually very calm. Tonight, however, it squawked nervously, its eyes rolling around in their sockets. Aera couldn't blame it, really. If she didn't have a job to do, she would probably be in the same condition. The brunette approached the bird slowly, hands facing palm up. It let her enter its stall, but when she tried to smooth its feathers, it flapped it wings and shrieked. The woman jumped back, trying to remember what to do. She seemed to remember her husband making noises at the thing to calm it before, so she tried a series of different clicks and whistles until it relaxed.
"Hush, hey there. It's OK. Shush, it's alright." She cooed. Aera cautiously reached for the rope tying the loftwing into its stall, her eyes never leaving its face. It did not spook, and she was able to untie the knot. She slowly led the bird to the tack room and saddled it quickly, keeping up a steady stream of hushed comforts all the while. A few minutes later, she led the bird outside.
At the sight of the loftwing he so admired, Link stood up from his place on the ground. He was unable to resist the grin that spread across his face, despite the tension that seemed to buzz in the air. "Oh, wow!" He giggled, walking up to the bird slowly, offering up his hands. The thing leaned down to him, nuzzling the small boy's face. Aera couldn't help but smile. Link was Hawlo's son more the hers.
"Come on, sweetie. Time to go." Aera lifted her son up onto the bird's back, and quickly hopped up after him. The bird shifted beneath her, and she gasped slightly. The brunette hated heights, but now was not the time to entertain her phobia.
"Hold on tight, Link." Aera instructed. She fixed her eyes on the sky above her, trying to locate north.
"OK." Two small, chubby hands grasped onto the rope tightly, ever obedient. "But, how's Papa gonna know where we've gone?"
It took Aera a moment to come up with an answer to this, as she couldn't lie at this point. But how to tell him the truth? "He will always know, Link. Papa loves you. Momma loves you too." She managed to choke out. The only thing keeping Aera from falling apart was the goal of getting her son to safety. She needed to know that he would be OK, and then she could curl up and cry. Turning her attention back to the loftwing, she gave it the signal to fly. A low whistle followed by a high, sharp piercing sound, meant to mimic the sounds of the wind.
The bird took off immediately, soaring high into the sky. Link smiled with wonder, admiring the night that surrounded him. Aera listened as her son began to babble about things Hawlo had told him, glad that he didn't seem to expect her to chime in. The brunette squeezed the reigns tightly in her hands, taking long, slow breaths in through her mouth. She tried to focus on the stars above her instead of the emptiness below. It seemed to be working, and her heartbeat calmed.
Aera realized her son had been calling her for a while. "What did you say, sweetie?"
Link's eyes were wide with fear, urgency layering his young voice. "Momma, Momma, rule three!"
"What rules?" Aera asked, momentarily forgetting her fear.
"Momma, Papa told me three rules about flying! Rule one, don't jump of off strange places, rule two, don't go beneath the clouds, and rule three! Don't fly at night! Momma, it's nighttime! You can't see the–''
Link's explanation was cut short by a rock hitting the loftwing and effectively knocking it unconscious. Aera was stunned. Link let out a terrified shriek as he and his mother plummeted towards the clouds below.
At the sound of her son's cries, Aera's survival instincts kicked in. She wrapped one arm around her son's waist, and launched herself off the falling bird. Link's screams acted as her motivation. Thinking quickly, Aera located the nearest island and angled herself towards it, hoping to either land on it or catch a vine. Just as the were about to blow past, she readjusted Link so he was safely enclosed in one arm, and reached out her other hand to grab onto the vegetation. The vine swung and twisted, slamming her back onto the rocky sides of the island. She gasped from the pain blossoming in her shoulders, and felt wetness run down the back of her spine.
Catching her breath, she checked on Link. He was crying hysterically and badly shaken, but unharmed. Her eyes unconsciously traveled to the clouds below her, and the brunette felt a wave of nausea rise in her throat. She shut her eyes, swallowing the bile. Feeling her hand slip slightly on the vine, she twisted it around her wrist as many times as she possibly could. The silence of the night pressed in on her. They were alone; still at least a mile and a half from their destination. Aera heard a sharp whistling sound, and looked up just in time to see a second rock hit her hand.
As a reflex, her finger released their grip. Aera screamed in pain as she felt her arm leave it's socket and the vine dig it's way far into her wrist, but luckily stay attached to her and the island. The brunette swore under her breath, causing Link to wail louder. She glanced around to see where the rocks had come from, and spied the glint of a sky octorok in the distance. There was no way to shelter herself or her child from its fire. She felt tears spring to her eyes, a mixture of pain and frustration. They had come all this way, just to fall into the oblivion below, because she could not protect herself from a small monster two hundred feet away.
"Momma, look!" Her son's voice rang out into the empty night, and his little finger pointed at a small, moving light in the distance. It swooped and spun, going up and down, almost like…
"It's a birdy, Momma! Just like Papa's!" Link smiled, his mood easily remedied even though he still sat dangling from his mother's arm.
Aera nearly began to cry again from relief. "Hey! HEY! OVER HERE!" She shouted.
Link joined her. "HELLO? OWNER, HERE! OVER HERE!"
The light swung once again, the steadily became larger. The guard had heard them. They were saved!
A sharp whistling sound, followed by the rips of a tearing vine, filled Aera's ears. The sky octorok was determined to have them dead, as it had aimed and hit the dangling vine. They had seconds before they dropped. Aera searched for the guard.
"HURRY!" She screeched. "THE VINE!"
The guard must have gotten the message, because now he picked up speed. But Aera could see it wouldn't be enough. Their only hope would be to swing and launch themselves toward the oncoming loftwing, and Aera was twisted up in the vine.
But Link wasn't.
Aera looked down at her son. He still waved at the guard, called out to the bird, unaware of what she was about to do. She took one last look at his golden hair, his pointed ears. The mother memorized the image of her son, imprinted it into her mind.
Then Aera threw her son into the open air, and the vine snapped.
In the deep night that dwells above the clouds, noise does not travel far. Not one Hylian in Skyloft awoke to the distant sounds of a desperate mother and her innocent child. Not one of them lost a wink of sleep as a young boy lost both his mother and his father in one night.
The boy had been thrown, realizing what was happening too late to say anything to his mother. Only having just enough time to turn around and watch her fall. It wasn't fast, or violent. She seemed peaceful, graceful, even. The woman stared at her son, and the son at his mother. The child's eye brimming with tears, and the woman's with a strange sort of relief. She smiled, closing her eyes against the wind, letting two more tears slip into the air.
The boy tried to call out to her from his savior's arms, but found that he choked on the words. He sat, struggling with the noises trying to exit his throat, and watched as his mangled mother slipped forever below the endless clouds, into the nothingness below.
Then Link succumbed to a dark nothingness of his own.