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Dear Great Sea

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Dear Great Sea

 

It’s a new age, stretching across months, years, decades – and the mail must still go through.

 

 

 

1. A report to Dragon Roost Island

 

Komali shivered. As he rose past the last rocky ridge to reach the full summit of the Roost, the cold Northern gusts hit him in full, rustling his feathers. He stood fast and bowed down.

“My Lord Valoo.”

The great red dragon perched upon the rock nodded at his name and shifted, so that his large body would protect the Rito from the worst of the wind.

They had come to an arrangement, the two of them. Not quite a friendship, with centuries and languages between them, but an understanding. When the world below got too busy for Komali, he would make the climb and sit with the sky lord until all that remained was the wind in their ears and the faint line on the horizon where the sky met the Great Sea. With any luck, some wisdom would brush off on him.

As he sat on the rim of the summit, next to the dragon, with the full extense of the Great Sea underneath them, Komali began to speak. He still could not tell how much Valoo understood of his modern tongue, so if this had been any other day, Komali would have kept his peace. But Medli had told him that their lord had given her a message, for him: “seek the old air.” So he had left the island to heed those words, to find out what “old air” was and where it blew.

He had not been sure of what he would find, he told the dragon. Of what “old air” would be, how he would recognise it. And yet: as he traveled the sea, even he, barely a fledgling six month into his adult wings, could tell that the winds had changed. The Great Sea had breathed the same air for so long, but that wasn’t old, no. On the contrary, it was forever present. Air without a history, unbothered by its past, facing each dawn as if it were the first. Now something had resurfaced, a vast and ancient mass. It carried a weight like dust and statues and empty halls, tarnished gold, carpets eroded at last by the absence of passage. The past was rising from somewhere deep below the islands, breaking their eternal spell. It bubbled up and drifted, eddied, rustled, swooshed, puffed and swirled until it mixed with the new air, like its shadow, giving it depth. It was a thrilling air, a complex air. An air of possibilities.

Komali stared at the horizon, picturing himself and his Rito follow these new paths, see the islands with new eyes.

Valoo breathed in, his thick eyebrows furrowed as he reached back so far that all he could summon was a memory of nostalgia.

 

 

 

2. A postcard to the Forsaken Fortress

 

At least tell us how you’re doing! Everything going sparkly over there? - your friends. To Kamo, Forsaken Fortress

The piece of paper that reached the mail center with the above words scribbled on one side and a dainty drawing of Windfall Island on the other could have bee a prank. Should have been a prank. The fortress loomed dark to the North-West, like a discarded bad memory far from the postal routes of the bustling sea. Nonsense, and a pricy brand of nonsense at that, seeing how it came stamped with the proper postage.

Yet with the Rito’s travels came plenty of gossip, and as they pierced bit and pieces of it together over a communal dinner, an intriguing picture emerged. Kogoli recalled seeing faint lights, like a faery dream, come from that direction one day when he had tarried in Rock Spire (he thought he’d dreamt it); Pashli reported with a pointed sigh that Obli said that his brother once mentioned the place out of the blue and refused to elaborate. For that matter, added Namali, so did young Zill down South. Ilari, who knew Windfall better than most of his peers, could swear by the existence of some guy by the name of Kamo, but hadn’t seen him around in a while. The chatter went back and forth, painting a picture of strange movements in the West, nebulous gatherings within those darkened walls. At last Farali, who had just gained her wings and could not remember those fearsome days when Ganon’s shadow spilled from that island like dark, deadly oil, pointed out that the delivery was paid for so they might as well go check.

Perched at one end of the long table, the Chieftain listened to his Ritos and found himself agreeing with the wisdom of youth. More than that: he would fly out himself, his guards by his side. If strangers really were assembling at the Fortress, a diplomatic visit was in order.

 

The Chieftain reached the accursed island’s shores as the sky turned to the first colors of dusk. Skett and Akoot landed behind him, talons tapping nervously on the rocks outside the walls. The massive outer gate was open, but a rope had been cast next to the arch, looking for all intents and purposes like a makeshift doorbell. The Chieftain nodded and Akoot gave it a good tug. The silvery ring of a bell echoed within the fortress walls.

For what felt like the longest time, nothing seemed to move inside. Then lights sparked inside the stern square windows of the crooked tower, and silhouettes walked past them in an unseen procession. Music, distant. Drums and pipes. The Rito left the safety of the rocks and flew closer to get a better look, tentatively hovering in front of the gate. A clattering of steps approached the inner gate; as the sun set behind their backs, the tower door flung open and the courtyard was flooded by sounds and light, and bodies, flowing forward in a crepuscular parade. There were men and women, young and old, five pigs, a korok, two fishes in a bowl carried by a four-armed figure who hid her face, all dressed in tight body suits of varying colors with pointy caps and huge fake ears jutting out. The gaudy crowd laughed and played, and threw confetti at each other with strange cries, and mounted on a number of rowboats and barges to come greet their unexpected guests. They were led by a rotund man in his forties who –

“...Tingle. Is that not right, Skett?”

“We could have seen this coming, Akoot.”

“No we could not,” said the Chieftain. There was an emotion behind this statement but the guards could not decipher it.

He took in the crowd with his sharp, imperious gaze and flew forward to land on Tingle’s barge, postcard in hand. He would not risk guessing who this ‘Kamo’ person that the message was addressed to was, and his community could sort it out. They were clearly at ease with each other. Happy, even.

It was then that he spotted a beak and talons, and modified bodysuit to account for wings: waving awkwardly at him was former novice postwoman Harit, who’d handed in her notice a couple months earlier to “follow the call of adventure” and who had since vanished without a trace.

She sustained his stare.

Slowly, geologically slow, like a rock eroded by the sea, he nodded in acknowledgement and – not approval, perhaps, but close enough.

 

 

 

3. A letter from far away

 

Quill knew better than to stop at Outset: the westernmost house was empty. The island still mourned. The letter said “for Aryll”, but her grandmother’s old home was the last place he would find her in.

Instead, he followed the seagulls. If there was an urgency to their cries, it did not, all in all, sound much different from the birds’ usual chatter. The noisy bunch led him to the reefs, where they fed on an abundance of fish. They called to him. Quill stared at their white forms dotting the water, squabbling, playing, and questioned his dedication to the job. Was he really following a trail, or did he waste half a day’s work birdwatching? But when he raised his head to the East (thinking of his own lunch, perhaps, long delayed), he saw that a bigger swarm of seagulls was crowning the abandoned Tower of the Gods. He threw a pear at the squawky fellas there in the reefs, for gratitude, and flew on to complete his job.

 

The woman sat atop the ring of stone arches that marked the tower’s watery courtyard. Her bright blue boat, which after fifteen years still sailed a playful pirate flag atop its mast, was anchored underneath; the hook she’d used to climb up was still fastened to the stone pinnacle above one of the arches. The seagulls still sang to her.

Not that she was listening, today – it took Quill landing right in front of her to wake her from her reverie. He sat down next to her, handing her her letter in silence. They were old friends by now, the kind of friends that do not need to apologize for making the mailman scour the seven seas to find you. You can just thank him with a smile and he knows you mean it.

Now, any other day, Quill would have just left her stuff in a mailbox he knew she frequented in her restless sailing, but this was the letter. The letter from her brother. It could not wait and it could not risk ending in the wrong hands. Aryll, sunburnt and magnificent, opened the envelope like a relic from a bygone age and let her eyes rest on every line, until she reached the end and held the letter close to her heart.

 

“A messenger siren got it to me in a bottle,” said Quill, eventually. “Said she got it from a postfish who got it from a sailor express who got it from a seal whom Tetra put the fear of the Goddesses in.”

“Did she! So here’s our lesson for today: some things never change.”

“Well, the seal is new.”

“I wonder what a seal is… the letter doesn’t say.”

“Some sort of squid, I think.”

They fell silent again. The waves lapped against the pillars.

 

The shadow of the great Tower fell on the arches like a sundial and reached their feet.

“When they wrote this, they were at the far border of that territory. The letter says the sky burns with colors they’ve never seen before.”

“I cannot imagine our sea stretching that far.”

“And yet it does, and it contains seals.”

“And more postal services than we could have imagined.”

“You guys are special, Quill.”

He smiled. “Of course we are.”

 

The shadow passed over them and went on. Aryll’s feet dangled off the stone ledge.

“If Link wrote today, about this sun we are looking at, at this rate it would take five years for his message to reach me. A reply to my reply would take...” She counted on her fingers. These were not new thoughts, but possibly the first time she said them out loud. Her voice cracked. “...thirteen? Quill, if I tell you a secret, where will you carry it to?”

“I will carry it with me, in the safety of my bag, but it is not mail and will not be delivered further than my ears.”

“Then I can tell you.” She forced a smile. “For the longest time, I thought… that we were counterparts, he and I. He travelled. I stayed. He is the Hero of Winds. I could be a hero of the forty-nine islands, right here, and together, we made a whole, the idea of us.”

The Tower loomed above them.

“I wanted to… make it official. Climb the tower, pass the trials. But this place, it’s silent. It remains still and closed. I...”

Quill hesitated. Anything he could say about her place in the heart of the Great Sea and all the people in it, she already knew, and had decided against it, it seemed. A different postman may have said their piece anyway, and who knows what future that would have brought along. But it was Quill standing then and there, and Quill was not in the habit of stating the obvious. He waited for her to continue.

“...the Gods look elsewhere. There’s just me, Aryll from Outset Island. I have always loved to travel, too, and that is what I’ll do. I’m leaving too, Quill...”

“Even if you were a message in a bottle, it would take years for you to reach them.”

“...not in that direction. If someone is watching over both our paths, they’ll weave them again one day. I’m going my way.”

“I understand.” He did not. But then, his love for Dragon Roost was total and uncomplicated. He could only accept that her position was anything but. “Then when you are ready, let me accompany you to the farthest borders of our sea.”
“Thank you, Quill.”

“And, Aryll – do write back.”

“I will...”

 

 

 

4. A package to Greatfish Isle

 

Medli landed on the grove’s dark beach, where far-reaching roots emerged over a carpet of wet strips of bark. The grove lay ahead of her, and a tender, joyful music came from within. The violin called; harp in hand, she answered as she delved under the thick cover of trees.

Their shared music was a treasured habit. It felt, some days, the she could introduce a melody from up on Valoo’s seat and Makar would pick it up from the branches of the Great Tree, but they had made it a priority to meet in person once a month and rekindle their bond, as Sages and as friends. So they did, in either of their homes, or for a select public. For years. Now decades.

The island rose into a steep hill. With short breath, Medli made it to the center and found her friend playing his violin over a strong, thick root, surrounded by a smaller lattice. He stared at her, unflinching and ineffably – yet unmistakably – smug.

 

As well he should be. In a departure from the tradition of their duets, Makar had set their meeting at Greatfish Isle, the shattered place, once crushed by Ganon’s vile power. Medli had flown there to find a tree-laden hill. She reached inside herself, then lower, deeper, underneath the grass and pebbles. What Medli could only guess at, the Sage of Earth knew: this island was mended. It breathed once more as firm, living ground.

“You did it,” she said, still feeling the deepest roots embrace each other and cradle new soil. “You… you dreamers and visionaries, you did it. It is whole again. And growing. So far past its old shore...”

“I have a present for you,” said Makar, with a jingle and a clatter. He hopped off his seat and guided her, like the wind through the trees.

Medli followed. She knew better than to argue with Koroks.

He led her to the deepest part of the grove and chimed at a thorny bush. It was ripe with fruits Medli had never seen, dark and sweet-smelling. She kneeled down to pick one, following her friend’s example. It was sweet and tart, and felt like an old memory, older than the sea… “Blackberries?” she said, barely recognizing her voice.

“Blackberries,” Makar confirmed in a faraway, dreamy whisper, drawing on different memories, shared through the wood.

 

“Oh! And I have a delivery for you, my friend,” Medli said eventually. This mailwoman business was not her usual lot in life and she had almost forgotten.

“You do? Do I? Who is it from?” asked Makar like a breeze through the leaves.

“Your siblings.” Medli took out a small bag and handed it to him. “It was surprising. Your people do not make much use of the mail.”

Makar weighed the bag. “I think they wanted Lord Valoo’s blessing on this one.”

“You are a strange bunch.”

“That we are!”

Proud, again. Deservedly, again, Medli supposed.

 

He offered to show her the small bag’s content – it sounded important. So they sat at the base of a large tree and untied the drawstring, and peeked inside. With a thrill, they emptied the bag in Medli’s cupped hands. They were seeds. Dozens of seeds, the likes of which they had never seen before, seeds that could grow in these new woods, here and on Pawprint, Needle Rock, Five Star, Bird’s Peak, ultimately inching toward each other…

“Windflower,” said Medli, reverent, with a voice older than herself.

“Willow,” said Makar. The Great Tree remembered, and all his children with him.

“Hydrangea.” It felt like a spell. An old magic.

“Dogwood.”

“Bayberry.”

“Hemlock.”

“Rock rose.”

“Periwinkle.”

As they went on, and maybe there was a bit of magic, as was their prerogative as Sages of Wind and Earth, they could see these plants grow from their hands, make new seeds, scatter and at last blossom in a meadow that would embrace the sea.