A Meadow White horse crossed the horizon, which consisted of raw red rock dazzled with sunlight. For almost three days, he had galloped across plains, panted up plateaus, and all for the sake of his master. But still, love drove him on.
His master, Lamatte, was a relatively young man who wore a simple grey tunic. Though, for such a plain looking man, he certainly had a valiant past. Once, he had been a Commanding Knight of the Royal Hylian Forces. But over time, he had slipped, and fallen into an addiction. Now, Lamatte was trying to amend himself and the damage he had caused.
"Aurarius! Slow down!" he called to the horse, who immediately obeyed. Ahead of them, they saw steam rising from a circle of rocks. Aurarius trotted closer and eventually halted at a beautiful hot spring, with water that reflected the red sunlight.
Lamatte dismounted, and removed his boots. He dunked one foot into the water, and the throbbing blisters and bruises were suddenly relieved. "Come in!" he called to Aurarius.
His horse, however, was reluctant to relax. Lamatte understood this, and went to remove the luggage he carried on his back. Now that the load had vanished, Aurarius crept forward, and placed his hooves into the water. Lamatte, knowing that his steed was content, shed the rest of his clothes and submerged himself in the warmth of the spring.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of clopping; hooves approaching. He looked to Aurarius, who did not stir. Lamatte paddled behind his horse and submerged all but his eyes. Soon, two horses came into view: one was a brick red Lokai, the other was a bay grey.
"Ooh, look Stephano!" cried the one on the grey Lokai. "A hot spring! I haven't been in one of them for a while!"
"Well you'll just have to wait a little while longer, Newton." said Stephano. They continued to trot until the red Lokai was pulled backwards, and neighed in protest. Stephano pointed to the spring and called out. "Is that...a Meadow White?!"
The grey Lokai also stopped to see what the fuss was about. "Yes, Stephano...it appears to be unaccompanied."
Unexpectedly, Stephano leapt down from his horse and approached it eagerly. Lamatte crept further back behind the rocks to observe, but not to be observed. Stephano appeared to be smaller than he was, but taller than his companion. He wore a glittering red waistcoat which sparkled in the twilight, and glossy brown hair, which he tied back. He began to caress Aurarius's mane, but Aurarius did not respond.
"This would make the perfect show horse for the tournament, Newton." Stephano said. "I must have it."
"I do not advise you to steal other people's horses, Stephano." his companion replied. "What would your parents think?"
"I don't care what my parents would think!" he snapped. "Besides, my parents would let me have anything I wanted."
"But this horse must belong to somebody." sighed Newton. "I mean, look at how clean its coat is."
"Well, there's nobody here to claim it, so finders-keepers." Stephano pulled on the reigns of the horse, but Aurarius cried out. Stephano continued to tug until a hoof kicked him sharply in the shin. He fell back into the water, and Lamatte tried to restrain his laughter.
Newton jumped down from his horse and rushed over to see to his friend. "Stephano, are you alright?!"
"Get off me, you buffoon, I'm fine!" Stephano snapped, shoving Newton away. "This horse is out of control! I do not want a horse that does not obey its master!"
He stood up, and brushed the dirt off his ruby waistcoat, before returning to his own horse. Newton followed him without command, and they climbed onto their horses and trotted away. Lamatte then waded out of the hot spring, and took his clothes,
"I wonder just where those idiots are headed?" he asked Aurarius. Again, he did not reply, but Lamatte rewarded him with food after he sorted Stephano out. "I heard them mention a 'tournament'. It sounds like fun."
Once dressed, he reattached the luggage to the saddle. Lamatte mounted Aurarius again and they followed the hoof prints that were left in the red sand.
The sun had long since set and the sand had turned from a rusty red to an iron brown. Aurarius had slowed to a trot in order for Lamatte's to scan his surroundings. He removed a compass from his belt and held it up to the moonlight. They were heading south; without a map, that was all they knew. When the Resistance had disbanded, Edgar, the royal tutor, had taken the map. Lamatte had been left with Aurarius, a compass and a caravan. He had since sold the caravan in order to pay debts. Now, he regretted not having a place to sleep.
The needle of the compass began to twist and turn. Lamatte watched, fascinated, as the direction swayed from west to east. What sort of phenomenon was this? As he raised his head, he sighted an array of red buildings below them. A village. At last, somewhere civilised. Lamatte flicked the reigns and Aurarius galloped towards the small settlement on the slope.
As Aurarius approached the village, the ground evened out, and there were even a few paving stones. The first building was a small wooden shack with a torch so close to it, the whole structure could have ignited. Lamatte presumed that this was a stable, and dismounted Aurarius to guide him inside.
He was indeed correct: within the shack were many horse, all tied to one of the random wooden posts which supported the roof. There were Stallions, Palominos and Friesians, all snoozing together. Lamatte cautiously crept by, and found a space for his own horse, beside a chestnut Yili horse.
As he tied Aurarius to the post, he heard the snorting of another horse nearby. It was the same brick red Lokai they had met previously. Aurarius did not stir, yet Lamatte stroked him all the same. "Don't worry." he reassured his steed. "I'm going to find an inn...maybe even one of Wickson's hotels. I'll be back by the morning to collect you."
He left Aurarius in the dark, surrounded by many of his own kind, yet he still looked lonely. Lamatte smiled and left the building, only to be confronted by a gigantic mass of rock. It was a Goron, wearing a pointy red hat, smiling down at him. After Lamatte had recovered from shock, he smiled back.
"Greetings, horse rider!" he said deeply. "Would you be interested in taking part in the Derresse Annual Adventure Tour?"
The enthusiastic Goron thrust a paper flyer into Lamatte's hands, which he carefully read:
The Derresse Adventure Tour-the greatest horse race in the world!
Whatever Age, whatever Gender, whatever nationality; join the adventure! The rules are simple: start at the Mining Village and reach the City of Honour within a week! If you win first place, you could win the Triumph Trophy and 3000 Rupees! To reserve your place, register at the Rusty Pick Inn before the race begins!
"So, will you test your horse riding abilities, sir?" the Goron asked, pleadingly.
"I suppose I'll try it out, yeah." Lamatte said coolly. "Besides, it's not about winning...it's about taking part."
"And survival." piped the Goron. He glance either side of him before leaning over Lamatte. "Don't say I told you this, but...this race isn't about glory. This race is to test your loyalty."
"What do you mean?"
"I can't tell you! I might lose my job!" he hissed. "But remember what I said. You will have to make choices if you want to win...but the biggest choice of all will be decided at the finish line. So...do you still want to take part?"
"Of course!" he said. "I'm not going to throw away 3000 Rupees. Besides, what's life without a little risk?"
"Don't say I didn't warn you..." the Goron muttered, before returning to his positive tone. "The Rusty Pick Inn is just down the street! Good Luck!"
The Goron curled up into a boulder with a red hat, and rolled along the paving stones, towards the Rusty Pick Inn: a small building with a green, metallic roof with paper lanterns and banners hanging from it. Lamatte considered the words of warning from the smiling Goron, before folding the flyer into his pocket and proceeding to the inn.
The sun streamed through the dusty windows onto Lamatte's bed in the Rusty Pick Inn. He awoke to the sound of commotion downstairs, and remembered the oncoming tournament. Lamatte strolled towards a cracked mirror on the wall and saw his dirty brown face staring back. He needed to look presentable. He was a Commanding Knight of the Royal Hylian Forces. He found his luggage bag and unbuckled the strap. Inside was his abandoned armour. It still glinted in the sunlight, despite its months of neglect. Lamatte grinned and dressed quickly. In the mirror, he now saw a dashing young knight, ready to take on the world.
It was in the dining hall of the inn that he soon realised that the Rusty Pick was also a restaurant. The familiar paper lanterns hung from the ceiling and neat varnished tables dotted the room, but each were hidden by the mass of many people, either chatting amongst each other and fighting for food. Lamatte wandered in between the crowds to the buffet table and took a clean white plate. Nearby, he heard a man and a woman discussing.
"Oh yeah, I saw that Meadow White." the man nodded. He wore a brown hat, with a rim that overshadowed his face. e was talking to a woman with blonde pigtails resting on each of her shoulders.
"It's gorgeous, isn't it?" she grinned. "I'm so jealous of its owner!"
"That would be me." said Lamatte, stepping into the conversation. The man tilted his hat and glared at him. The girl's eyes twinkling with astonishment.
"Y-you own that Meadow White?"
"Yeah; his name's Aurarius." Lamatte smiled. "What about you?"
"Oh, me and my brother are sharing a horse." she explained. "It's a yellow Walkaloosa, nothing special. Jerry steers the horse, and I operate weaponry from the chariot."
"Oh yes, you'll need weapons if you want to overcome these trials." explained Jerry. "That's why it's best to go in pairs. That way, I can look after Sanctus while Bella takes down the opposition."
"Sanctus is the name of our horse." Bella whispered.
"Wow...I didn't realise things were going to get aggressive..." Lamatte sighed. "Lucky I brought my sword. My name's Lamatte, by the way. Commanding Knight of the Royal Hylian Forces." It had been a while since he had addressed himself by his full title. It felt like his identity was coming back to him.
"That sounds important." Bella chuckled. "What are you doing taking part in a silly horse race like this?"
"It's just something I've always wanted to do." he said, scratching his head. "I'm actually searching for some friends that I fell out with a long time ago."
"Oh, I am sorry about that." Bella said sympathetically.
Suddenly, the doors of the restaurant crashed open and a dazzling ruby waistcoat burst in, followed by a man in a rather less glittery white tunic. The crowd in the restaurant stopped to stare.
"I told you to wake me up at six, Newton!" Stephano roared to his accomplice.
Newton was tottering along the floor, struggling with a giant wooden crate. "I did, Stephano, but you were very stubborn!"
"It's seven o'clock!" Stephano hissed, and grabbed a clean plate from the rack. "I'm going to late for the race."
"You're actually just on time." said a stern voice. The crowd turned from the disruption to the source of authority. It was a short woman with giant glasses and short white hair. She held a clipboard in her right hand and a quill in her left. The woman glided forward and the gathering of racers parted. "For those of you who don't know, my name is Vivian Victorian." she spoke sharply. "That's Mrs Victorian to you."
She was interrupted by the sound of munching from within the crowd. Her silver eyes pierced through the crowd and glared at Stephano, who was still eating. At the sight of her pursed lips, he stopped and the attention was drawn back to her.
"As I was saying, I am the manager of this inn, and the organiser of this race. The race will begin shortly outside on the road, where a line has been drawn to mark your starting blocks. If anyone is found crossing that line before the starting horn sounds, you'll be automatically disqualified. Now, I suggest that you finish your meals as quickly as possible and collect your horses from the stable. Once every person has been checked off my list, the race will begin. Don't keep me waiting."
Mrs Victorian turned on her heel and marched out of the doors to the restaurant. The crowd slowly adjusted to the original noise and were all gossiping excitedly about the forthcoming race.
"I suppose I had better go and fetch Aurarius." said Lamatte, and placed his empty plate in a nearby sink before waving goodbye to Jerry and Bella. As he approached the doors, he spotted Stephano scoffing his toast, and they glanced coldly at each other until Lamatte departed for the stable.
Within minutes, the cramped wooden stable had emptied. Twenty or more horses, ranging from solid Grays to common brown Palominos to the sunny yellow Walkaloosa, which Lamatte identified as Sanctus, the horse that belonged to his competitors Jerry and Bella. Lamatte led his own Meadow White across the roads to ready him for the race. Despite his repetitive apologies, Aurarius would not forgive him for abandoning him in such awful conditions.
Together, they appeared at the starting line. Although all human, each contestant was different; from a tubby jockey who was helped onto his horse by two servants, to a woman wearing a silk red scarf and a scarlet feather in her hair. She saw Lamatte and winked before boarding the saddle. He chose his position beside Sanctus, and found Bella attaching a wooden chariot to the back of the reigns.
"Oh, hey Lamatte!" she smiled. "I see your horse is looking splendid!"
"Thanks," Lamatte said, stroking his mane. "Though I don't think he feels it. Where's Jerry?"
"Oh, he likes to perform a few rituals before races." Bella said in a hushed tone. "I think a lucky charm would do the job, but he prefers to do the whole prayer."
She pointed to the front of the horse, where Lamatte found Jerry placing a bronze necklace over Sanctus's neck. He then knelt down and spoke softly for s few moments before rising and approaching the chariot.
"Is the cannon working?" Jerry asked. "Do you have the ammunition?"
"Of course!" Bella laughed. "Do you think I'm incapable?"
"I wouldn't doubt it." he answered dryly, and turned to Lamatte. "I wish you luck. I would offer you one of my charms, but I appear to have run out." Jerry held out his hand kindly, and Lamatte shook it.
The union was disrupted by the clopping of more hooves. Lamatte turned to find the brick red Lokai striding to the starting line. Stephano's smug face was steering the reigns, while Newton was waddling beside it, still carrying the mysterious wooden crate. When their eyes found Lamatte, Stephano chortled.
"It looks like the Gold Knight has come unprepared! Not much of a fighter, are you?"
"This isn't a battle," he replied coolly. "It's a horse race. Get over it."
"That's what you think, fool." Stephano sneered. "You'll need more than your horse to win this contest. Fortunately, I have my secret weapon." His heavy hand patted the wooden crate and he laughed harder. "But where are my manners?" He then held out his hand to shake. Lamatte did not remove his gaze from Stephano's grin, but shook his hand still. "Good sport. Come on Laurus"
Stephano mounted his horse and waited for the wooden crate to be placed on the floor beside him. He then gave a gesture which signified Newton's dismissal, and Newton vanished. The ominous sound of heels was heard as Mrs Victorian snaked through the crowd with her clipboard. She stopped near the group and examined them with her silver gaze. "Names?"
"Stephano." He spoke before the others could exhale. She ticked him off the list and waited for the others. "Lamatte." "Bella." "Jerry." Once the list was complete, Mrs Victorian slithered away without a farewell to join a tall Goron with a pointed red hat at the edge of the starting line. The others waited awkwardly until she spun round to face the contestants.
"Ladies and Gentlemen." Mrs Victorian called fiercely. "The race is about to start. I trust that all of you are positioned where you must be, and are not an inch past the starting line. The instructions, should you have forgotten, are very clear. Depart from the Mining Village and head east towards the City of Honour, where you must cross the finishing line at my husband's hotel; The Joyous Lantern."
"However, there will be trials which you must overcome in order to win. We cannot guide you on these tasks, but there will be Goron assistants positioned at designated refreshment points, located shortly after each trial, where your horse may drink and you may rest. We will also offer you a map of Derrese, labeling the direct path from here to the City."
The Goron stumbled through the crowd of horses, passing a piece of rolled up parchment to each contestant. Lamatte received his and nodded his thanks to teh Goron. The Goron stared plainly at him and moved on.
"The trial will take place over a week. By then, the winner should have claimed victory, and any stragglers will have lost. If you do not return within a week, we will not come and find you. Once you leave this village, you are responsible for your own safety-and one another. Although the bullying of other contestants is frowned upon, we will not be there to pick up the pieces. You must take care of yourself and your horse."
Stephano repeated his hideous grin, which Lamatte chose to ignore, and instead glanced at the woman in the red scarf, though she was watching Mrs Victorians lips eagerly with the rest of the crowd.
"So without further ado, let the race begin!"
A cannon beside her fired and sent a ball of fire into the air, which exploded into a giant red firework. The horses immediately began to gallop down the road of the village, cheered by the few residents which line the streets with banners. Lamatte watched as Jerry and Bella shot off, followed by the scarf woman. Aurarius, instinctively, accelerated and caught up with the others.
But Laurus and Stephano soon advanced and waved antagonistically, before they were joined by a grey Lokai, ridden by Newton, who also grinned slyly. Lamatte was disgusted at how they had already cheated the rules by leaving Newton unregistered, but continued to ride into the valley.
The crashing of hooves on the rock, the clouds of dust which erupted with every gallop, the cheering and jeering of every single contestant. Beyond the harmony of the Mining Village, it was mayhem.
Already, riders had begun to hinder each other, and many different methods were used. Lamatte twice avoided the plump man, whose horse had been fitted with various sharp objects, so that any horse who shunted into them would be jabbed, and knocked back. But still, he and Aurarius rode on, non-stop.
Ahead, they faced the steep slope of a canyon, with a red flag billowing from the top. He presumed that they were nearing the first trial, and focused on the bold fabric, ignoring the havoc around him.
Suddenly, the overcast sky above them split and rained down upon the dusty mass below. This did not stop the intense sprinting of the horses, but the riders knew what was coming.
"It's okay, Aurarius," Lamatte panted. "I'm sure you can handle this!"
The stiff clay rock melted in the raindrops, and turned to thick brown mud. The whole pack slowed down as their hooves became caught in the ground. Some saw this as an opportunity, and Lamatte spotted one pair filling a bucket with water and chucking it over those behind them. Aurarius also saw this, and felt a little uncomfortable. Lamatte noticed, and reassured his steed.
"Aurarius, it's just rain! It's nothing to be afraid of!"
As soon as he spoke, he regretted it. The pack had approached the ascent which they had seen from the village. It once was a strong, steady slant; now, it was a slope of slimy sludge which was slowly sliding down the side of the canyon towards them.
"Landslide!!!" somebody called from the front. The alarm startled everybody, and some were galloping too fast to stop. Lamatte braked beside the woman in the scarlet scarf. She glanced from him to the mountain and yelled. "Folia, reverse!"
Her horse, a ginger Barb horse, snorted ferociously, but obeyed her, trotting backwards gracefully. Lamatte realised that Aurarius and he was in danger, and pulled on the reigns. Mimicking Folia, the Meadow White reversed as the mud cascaded down the surface of the slope.
Before them, horses and riders were drowned in the unexpected landslide. Aurarius was terrified, and Lamatte was stunned. Then, Folia and her mistress sprinted, galloping elegantly and carelessly through the crowd of confused competitors. The scarlet scarf woman laughed as she passed the red flag, and did not look back. Lamatte watched astounded, until he and Aurarius did the same thing, and passed the many trapped horses.
"Aren't you going to get me out?!" he heard Stephano hissing to Newton, who was examining the solidity of the mud cautiously.
He spotted Jerry and Bella, who had dismounted their horse and were trying to lift the chariot from the mud. Lamatte stopped, and kindly stepped down from his horse in order to help. Bella brushed back her hair and smiled as the three of them heaved the wooden cart and freed it from the sticky slide.
"Thanks, Lamatte." said Bella, and hopped back into the chariot.
"I will not forget this!" Jerry called, and Sanctus rode again through the pouring rain.
Lamatte mounted Aurarius once more and watched Newton pushing Laurus's immense weight, which was worsened by a stubborn Stephano, who refused to let his shiny boots touch the sludge. "Lamatte, my friend!" he called, forcing a smile. "Would you mind helping me out of this mess?"
Lamatte gave him a look of utter disgust, and galloped up the slope, and passed the red flag. Through the rain, he could just see Stephano's grumpy snarl, which made him feel even more confident as Aurarius proceeded over the canyon puddles.
It took some time for Lamatte to realise what had just happened. Thanks to the landslide, he and Aurarius had gained a lead in the race, which they would have otherwise struggled to catch up. Was this the first trial that they had to overcome? Surely not.
The only other racers were Jerry and Bella, who remained unfased by the obstacle, and continued to ride with confidence. The scarlet scarf woman was nowhere to be seen; so far ahead that the drizzle hid her from sight. She was responsible for giving Lamatte the initial idea of avoiding the landslide, and for that, he must thank her.
The view beyond them became clouded by a damp mist, so Aurarius slowed to a gentle gallop. Ahead, the three riders could see a flat wall of rock, and they heard the tremendous roar of rushing water. As they approached, the view became clear, and so did the first trial: an enormous waterfall towered over them, showering them with a cool spray.
"Elevant Falls!" called Jerry. "They're a popular attraction in Derresse!"
Aurarius and Sanctus both halted at the base of the falling river, in order to plan their crossing. The water crashed into a rippling pool, which looked deep enough to drown them all. There was a rock poking out of the water, which was shiny and soaked.
"I think I can see the red flag..." Jerry called, squinting his eyes in the mist. "Atop the bluff."
"And how do you suppose we get up there?" Bella asked, with her arms folded.
Lamatte was also considering this conundrum. The scarlet scarf woman must have already passed this test, as she was still nowhere to be seen. He looked to Aurarius for advice, but his eyes remained transfixed on the immense waterfall, but gazed through it transparently, as though it wasn't there. Lamatte sighed, and scanned the wall of rock. There were som convenient ledges placed all over the cliff, which offered answers.
"We'll have to climb." he concluded, and pointed to the glistening rock in the centre of the pool. "We could reach the other side of the pool and use the ledges."
The others looked uncertain, and stared at him in puzzlement. Lamatte needed to take the first step to prove that his proposal was possible, so Aurarius leapt onto the rock and then to the other side. From there, he had a clearer view of the cliff he was about to ascend. The ledges were in fact made of wood, which had become dampened and rotten. Lamatte's courage was fading, but he refused to let it show in front of the siblings. Instead, he and Aurarius walked up the convinient ramp and leapt onto the wooden platform. It shuddered slightly, but otherwise, remained stable.
The siblings cheered, and Sanctus galloped forward heroically. He landed on the rock as the chariot left the ground. Bella gripped the handles as the wooden car crashed onto the rock. It was going to be a tricky ascent for her.
Lamatte continued to guide Aurarius behind the roaring rush of water. Every wooden plank creaked with his delicate hooves, but Lamatte was certain that they had almost made it to the top. Below him, he could see Jerry and Bella, ascending the cliff cautiously. Then, he heard a splash.
Far below them, the plump man had attempted to leap onto the central rock, and slipped off his saddle straight into the depths of the pool. "Help!" he called, panicking. "I can't swim!"
"Oh, move it fatty!" Stephano snarled, and heaved him from the water, only to throw him aside into the mud. The man's horse remained cowering on the rock, only to be forced back onto the edge of the pool by Laurus's might. Newton and his horse followed behind, laughing at the mud-caked rider attempting to mount his horse once more.
Laurus halted on the first wooden ramp, as Stephano gazed up and saw Lamatte near the top. "I had wondered where you had gotten to!"
With a sharp kick, Laurus leapt over the pool and onto the wooden platform, and began to climb rapidly, so that Newton was left behind. It was clear that the other racers had managed to escape the landslide and were advancing closer. Bella and Jerry realised this, and pointed their cannon towards Stephano.
"You've got a long way to go!" Bella jeered, and a jet of water squirted from the barrel of the cannon, drenching Stephano and his horse, so that the platform wobbled uncertainly. Lamatte laughed in disbelief.
"Oh, so is that how you wanna play?" hissed Stephano, wiping the droplets from his face. Laurus reared and then began to pelt across the wooden ledges. Jerry quickly steered Sanctus higher up the cliff and the race was on.
Lamatte watched the action unfold, as Stephano raged furiously after Bella, who was still squirting from her cannon. Newton wasn't far behind, but suddenly, a plank splintered and fell into the pool below. The bridge was collapsing!
Newton yelped, and his horse galloped faster across the platforms. Stephano was still enraged, and was too busy chasing the siblings to notice the danger. Lamatte glanced upwards and saw the red flag. He was just a few feet away, and he knew if he waited any longer, the platform Aurarius stood on would crack like the others.
They galloped across the final ledge and up a steep ramp until they reached the flag, claiming victory over the first trial. Before continuing, Lamatte chose to observe the chase. Newton's horse had stepped on one platform too many, and they both fell sideways into the waterfall, where they were consumed in the veil of noise. Sanctus had arrived at the steep ramp, but was too exhausted to climb it. Stephano spotted Newton's absence, and shrieked at the sight of the falling wood. Laurus accelerated.
"Lamatte!" Jerry called. "Help us up!"
Lamatte was desperately searching for some rope or cable which could hoist a horse up a cliff, but all he could see was the drop of the waterfall. Instinctively, he heaved the flagpole from the banks of the river, and retrieved a piece of veg from his backpack that he had been saving for Aurarius. Aurarius sniffed the food and pretended not to care before Lamatte planted it on the end of the flagpole and baited it for Sanctus. Sanctus sniffed the veg and was given one last surge of energy to climb the ramp. He nibbled on the vegetable once he had made it to the top, and Jerry patted him with pride.
"He would do anything for food." he laughed, and then peered over the edge. Laurus and Stephano were still advancing, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.
"Hurry up!" Bella screamed. Jerry obeyed and Sanctus galloped onward. Lamatte and Aurarius stayed to watch the panic on Stephano's face. When he did eventually make it, the path was no more. He was left panting with relief, while Lamatte grinned smugly at him.
"Congratulations, you just destroyed the first trial." he laughed.
Stephano snarled and straightened himself. "None of this would have happened if it wasn't for your girlfriend's little toy! Just wait until you see my weapon of mass destruction!"
Stephano and Laurus galloped after Bella and Jerry leaving Lamatte and Aurarius standing on top of the waterfall, holding a flagpole. Lamatte planted it back into the mud and murmured to his steed; "They haven't won yet."
From the high vantage point, they could see the afternoon sun which had banished the rain and the overcast skies. The land was fairly flat from here on, and Lamatte could see the shadows of Stephano, Bella and Jerry sprinting into the distance. But it was a metallic red roof beside the river which caught his eye, and with a jolt of the reigns, he and Aurarius galloped towards it.
There was a wooden bridge crossing the fast flowing river with a roof climbing over it. On the bridge, two giant Gorons stood beside a trough of food and a few barrels. When Lamatte approached, their expressions lifted.
"Welcome to Elevant Bridge!" said the first, and clapped his huge palms clumsily. "This is the first stop for you to take a drink in the river and a few bites from the trough. I'm referring to your horse, of course!"
Lamatte dismounted his steed and allowed Aurarius to nibble at the contents of the trough, which was crunchy and dry thanks to the artistic red roof.
"Where are the others?" the other Goron asked, concerned.
"The path up the waterfall has collapsed." Lamatte explained.
"So soon?" the Goron gasped. "We expected at least ten of you to make it before that happened."
"The landslide swept most of the contestants away." He informed the two Gorons about the unfortunate incident in the valley.
"That's sad...but that's life I suppose." the first Goron sighed. "You did well to make it here. There's not much to do, but make yourself at home!"
Lamatte took the opportunity to open up his piece of parchment from his backpack. Fortunately, the map was also dry and he found the black line which was Elevant River. As his finger traced the line, Lamatte watched it vanish into the side of the mountain. The point was labelled Goron Caverns.
"That's your next stop!" chirped the joyful Goron behind him. "It's our home! There are beds, food and stables so you can prepare yourself for the second day!"
Lamatte nodded, and rolled the map up once more. He wondered just how the rest of the contestants were going to reach Goron Caverns if the path had been destroyed...unless there was another way round?
Aurarius finished his meal, while Lamatte was left starving. In his backpack, he had a few sandwiches which he had taken from the Rusty Pick Inn, but he needed to save them for the rest of the week. Lamatte mounted Aurarius and said farewell to the Gorons before continuing on their journey. Since they had stopped, the others were completely out of sight. he only thing ahead of them was the red summit blazing in the sunlight.
Shrouded in the mist of the waterfall, Newton and his horse, Fulgaria, were drying off beside the pool. His clothes were soaked, and the cold made him shiver all over. Fulgaria occasionally rubbed her snout against his hair, and he stroked it unconsciously. The platforms had fallen and he was drenched to the bone. There was no way up, and for him, the contest was over...all thanks to Stephano.
The plump rider who Newton had watched being thrown in the mud and laughed at, dismounted his horse and approached him.
"Well, now you and me are on the same horse." he winked. Newton glanced up and saw his rosy red cheeks and cheery green eyes. "My name's Julius, and this is my horse, Vinia."
Vinia was a silver spotted Walkaloosa, who was not too different to Fulgaria. Newton glared at the odd pair before Julius extended his hand. Newton shook it with his own dripping palms, and Julius heaved him up with unexpected strength.
"It's all over..." Newton murmured. "What do we do now?"
"It's not over!" Julius chortled. "Do you think that they wouldn't have thought that rotten piece of wood would collapse? No, there has to be another way..." Julius dipped into his pocket and pulled out a muddy piece of parchment. He unrolled it clumsily and squinted at the labels and lines. "We're at Elevant Falls, right? Well, there's a red dot here on the map."
"I think that means a refreshment point." Newton said quickly, and stared over his shoulder to see the map. "The black line is the river, and it goes in two directions, split by the waterfall."
"Two directions..." Julius muttered, and gazed up at the waterfall. "So where's the river now?"
Suddenly, there was the sound of more hooves. Both men spun round to see many more horses accompanied by their masters and mistresses. All were mesmorised by beauty of the waterfall, and the sight of Newton's soaked clothes and Julius's mud-stained trousers.
"The trial has been...altered a little." Julius explained.
"I think 'demolished' is the word." Newton corrected him. "We can't reach the flag now."
"But there's another route!" Julius cheered, and displayed the map to the crowd. They glanced at each other, puzzled, before approaching the map. Julius indicated the black line, and how the river should flow beneath their feet.
"But the river isn't here!" groaned a short girl with short, black hair.
"Unless it's underground..." said a studious looking rider. The crowd discussed this idea and eventually concluded that there must be a cave somewhere nearby.
"Over there!" boomed Julius, and pointed to a gaping dark hole in the side of the cliff. Already, muddy hooves has passed through, and a trail had been left for them to follow. The crowd of horse riders cheered, and mounted their horses once more.
Julius and Vinia led the contestants to the dark cavern, and Newton and Fulgaria were left trailing behind. Already, he was plotting revenge for Stephano, who abandoned him in the mud. Yes, Stephano was going to feel the same...
The yellow shine of the afternoon sun had turned to a hazy orange glow as twilight followed. The mountain was bathed in the blazing dusk and Aurarius was growing thirsty once more.
"Don't worry," Lamatte assured him. "We'll reach Goron Caverns soon."
In truth, he hadn't a clue how to reach Goron Caverns at all. All he could see were the red trunks of dead trees and the bare brown rock which his steed's hooves crossed endlessly. Stephano, Bella and Jerry had long forsaken him, and now, he was at the mercy of the setting sun.
Suddenly, a peculiar dust erupted beside them. Aurarius panicked and evaded the frightful, rumbling noise. Lamatte gripped the reigns and peered over the horse's head. It was a boulder, rolling speedily and smoothly. He recognised it as a Goron and brought Aurarius to a halt. The boulder stopped immediately and rose.
"Why, if it isn't the Gold Knight!" the Goron cheered. "Don't you remember who I am?"
Lamatte shook his head. "All Gorons look the same to me."
"A typical Hylian..." the Goron sighed. "It's me, the Goron who got you into this contest! My name is Gogorongo. I was just on my way to Goron Caverns."
"So am I!" Lamatte laughed. "Could you show me the way?"
"Well, I've been strictly ordered not to help contestants in the tournament...but I've grown a soft spot for you...what's your name?"
"Lamatte." he said. "Lamatte the Gold Knight."
"A title, eh? You sound very important!" Gogorongo chuckled. "For one so important, I'm surprised you didn't take the shortcut to Goron Caverns..."
"There's a shortcut?"
"Yes...and it's not exactly hidden. There's a cave beside Elevant Falls where the river flows underground. It's labelled on the map I gave you."
"So there is another way!" Lamatte cheered excitedly. "So I could have skipped the first trial completely?"
"Not exactly," Gogorongo sighed. "You see, like Elevant River, the trial was split into two. Elevant Caves provides its own challenge which the contestants must succeed before they can reach Goron Caverns. Now, I'm going to roll up and pretend this conversation never happened. You're welcome to follow me to the caverns, but don't breath a word to anyone."
Gogorongo curled up into his boulder form and accelerated along the ground. Lamatte tugged on the reigns and guided Aurarius towards the cloud of dust so they could follow the Goron towards the mountain beneath the stars.
Gogorongo stopped in front of a tall red gate, of a similar style to the structure on Elevant Bridge. There was a large golden medallion hanging from the beam, which displayed the Goron Print, the emblem of their race. Lamatte gazed in awe at the wonderful entrance to Goron Caverns.
"Well, here you are." Gogorongo said. "I can tell you're impressed. Now, listen to me: when you enter, you must pay the utmost respect. Not many racers remember that us Gorons are offering you our living space as a gift, and they take us for granted. Not all of us are employed by Mrs Victorian. Most of them disapprove of the race completely. Secondly, I want you to know that our Chief is currently enduring a spiritual passing. He must meditate frequently, and may even have prophetic epiphanies. You must not interfere with his seizure, nor must you speak to him."
"A seizure?!" Lamatte raised an eyebrow.
"Indeed. It is a message from the Mother of the Mountain. As her people, she is offering us guidance as how to keep this world at peace. Any interruption or interference may result in the disruption of the connection between the Chief's mind and the Mother's."
"I see... Lamatte lied.
"Well, I bid you farewell. May we meet again before you set out for the second trial."
Gogorongo did not roll, but strolled into the caverns under the grand gate. Lamatte thought it unwise to ride through the caves, and instead dismounted Aurarius and guided him into the darkness, without knowing what awaited them.
The first thing they noticed was the light of a fire, which drew them in. The fire was coming from a torch, which was connected to other torches with banners decorated in the Goron print. They were in a corridor, which led in two directions. A small wooden sign pointed towards the left, which was labelled The Stables. Lamatte took Aurarius down the corridor and into a confined space with a few more torches and a trough of water with a pump.
There were three horses already waiting there; in particular, a Ginger Barb who Lamatte recognised as Folia, who had led them over the landslide. The others were of course Sanctus and Laurus, who lay at opposite sides of the cave, tied to convenient, wooden posts. Lamatte tied Aurarius to one beside Folia, and spoke gently.
"I know, this is the second time I've left you in a stable. But don't be angry with me. I'll be back tomorrow." Aurarius did not respond, but instead looked down at the floor. "You know, you were very brave at the waterfall." Lamatte continued, and stroked him. "Not many horses could conquer that...not many horses did. But this race will be worth it, I promise. Just keep pushing and we'll get there. Now rest."
He fed Aurarius some pellets from his satchel and left him with the others. Lamatte then proceeded down the corridor an up some steps. He found himself in a great hall, with a roof which spiraled as high as the mountain outside. The floor also spiraled down to the floor below, where a great flame burned in the centre. There were many torches, all burning brightly, and many Gorons, all going about their business. Lamatte was now lost in a community of moving boulders.
The horse riders were restricted to visiting only a few rooms of the immense underground city. It was mealtime, and those who had succeeded the first trial were gathered around a stone table, feasting on a plate of roast Cucco and rice, prepared by the Gorons.
Stephano gobbled a Cucco wing whole, and licked his fingers whilst staring smugly at the siblings. Bella and Jerry did their best to ignore his existence, and continued to eat their meal. The only other contestant was a woman named Ruby, who ate her meal quickly, but elegantly. She could sense the tension between them, and chuckled under her breath.
Lamatte arrived at the doorway, looking exhausted and hungry. The other riders saw him and observed as a Goron swooped upon him, wearing a white toque.
"Ah, another human! Please, be seated! Your meal will be ready in a moment!"
He dashed to another section of the cave, where a stove was hissing and steaming. Lamatte sat himself beside the siblings. The table was gigantic, and there were many spaces left between the other racers. In no time at all, the Goron chef returned with a plate of roast Cucco.
"Eat up, young human!" he said. "The Chief doesn't want to see a guest go hungry!"
"Yes our Chief will be joining you shortly, in order to give a blessing."
Lamatte thanked the Goron and ate. The food was fantastic and well deserved. He hadn't eaten a full meal for months, and it felt good to finally tuck into juicy Cucco meat.
There was no conversation at the table. The tension between them was too great ever since the mishap at Elevant Falls. Lamatte wasn't affected so much, and he managed to enjoy his food. The others, however, could not ignore the exchange of glances and occasional coughs. Thankfully, the meal was interrupted once more by the arrival of the other contestants. Each of them stopped eating to see the pale faces and dampened clothes of the riders who had taken the alternative route. They were led by a short, plump man who was rubbing his eyes constantly.
"Well, that was a peculiar experience." he laughed faintly. "Now, what's for supper?"
The Goron chef appeared in a flash, and seated them with plates of Cucco. Lamatte watched Newton sit in his designated place beside Stephano, but they did not speak. The short man could not wait to tell the rest of his adventure though.
"Me and this young fellow discovered the secret cave together." he said, and gestured gracefully to Newton. "We led our steeds through the intimidating darkness, only to be confronted by a heavy mist! It clouded our vision like a veil, and frosted our very souls!"
The table listened intently to the wonderfully told tale of how the riders lost each other in the caves, until 'Julius' found the exit, and called out through the darkness for the others to reunite. Overall, it had been a success, though since the landslide, only twelve riders had completed the first trial. Julius was certain to show his praise to Newton and his navigation skills, and even Stephano seemed impressed.
Lamatte glanced to the woman with the scarlet scarf, who had arrived at the caverns before any of them. She saw him and winked, but did not join in the discussion. Instead, she sat with her arms folded and her plate empty.
Suddenly, a figure appeared at the entrance. The lecture stopped instantly as the table turned to see a hunched Goron with a beard that split in three directions. For a Goron leader, Lamatte was surprised at how weak and elderly he appeared.
The Chief smiled through glazed eyes and hobbled over towards the table. The humans did not stand but stared in disbelief as the Chief climbed onto the table where they had just eaten as though it were a pedestal. The Goron chef appeared at the vacant seat in order to clap excitedly.
"Greetings, travellers!" he said regally, and waved his palms. "And what brings you to my fair city?"
"We're here for the race." one man laughed. Some others surrounding him chuckled, but Julius, Bella, Jerry and Lamatte remained amazed at his lack of superiority.
"Ah, yes," said the Chief. "And I am here to wish you the very best of luck from me and Her Majesty of the Mountain."
Suddenly, he began to shudder. The dreamy smile faded from his lips and his eyes turned from glazed and distant to sharp and piercing. The crowd turned to the Goron chef for a reaction, but the Goron remained dazzled by his Chief's presence. Then, a voice was heard, powerful and majestic, but feminine:
"Greetings, young humans." the words echoed from the Chief's mouth. "You have entered my mountain on a temporary basis, through the kindness of my people. Therefore, it is I who has granted you accommodation for this night, and it is I who you will worship here."
Lamatte turned to the others and saw astonished and somewhat frightened expressions. But still, he could hear the tremendous commanding voice from the Chief's mouth.
"As you have come this far, it is clear that one of you holds the destiny of victory in this tournament. But that task was no challenge. For the next trial, you will face me, the Mountain, and realise true difficulty and hardship. If you succeed, you may leave this mountain unscathed. Should you fail, you face almost certain death."
The words echoed in the minds of everyone around the table. The prospect of death seemed entirely impossible in such an innocent tournament, though they had been warned. Why else would everyone be permitted to carry weapons?
The Chief blinked rapidly for a while as his eyes became glazed once more. He slowly regained his sense again and spoke to the humans. "Well, you are welcome to stay in my city as long as you like. Though if you want to win the race, I suggest you start moving...after a good night's sleep."
The Chief stepped down from the table and hobbled away, playing with his pointed beard. The Goron Chef whizzed round and collected every plate, then dismissed them, directing them upstairs to a cave which would serve as their temporary dormitories. Lamatte yawned and followed the twelve contestants out of the kitchens, until he noticed that one of them was missing: the scarlet scarf.
Glancing around suspiciously, he dropped out of the crowd and went to return to the stables.
The great hall of the cavern looked even grander with the lack of Gorons, who had all curled up to sleep. Lamatte admired the curious spiralling roof as he ascended the ramp to the entrance. He suddenly realised that there was an opening at the top, which he could see the stars shedding their sparkling light into the underground city.
He eventually reached the entrance hall he had first arrived in, and headed to the darkened stables, where many horses were snoring and snoozing. The whole place stank, and Lamatte's nose shrivelled as he found the vacant space beside Aurarius. He knew exactly where the woman had gone, and he felt cheated. Aurarius was still awake looking quiet, and Lamatte had an idea.
"How would you like to come on a midnight jaunt?" he grinned at his steed. Aurarius looked up, and for the first time, appeared excited to see his master. Lamatte beamed and untied the rope which bound him.
Soon, Lamatte and Aurarius were outside under the serene night sky which twinkled above the Mountain. They could see a silhouette of a horse attempting to ascend the wall, and Aurarius trotted over to it. Folia and her mistress looked exhausted and frustrated, and the sight of Lamatte did not help.
"What do you want?" she snapped. "Shouldn't you be tucked up in bed with the rest?"
"I could ask you the same question." Lamatte sneered. "What are you doing out here?"
"Trying to win the tournament if it's any of your business. Why are you here?"
"To see you. I never really thanked you for saving me from the landslide today."
"I didn't save you from a landslide!" she laughed. "I saved myself, and you copied! I suppose you've come to follow me again."
"I didn't follow you into the Elevant Caves." Lamatte piped, and looked up at the mountain. "Are you sure this is the right way? There aren't any flags..."
"I know this isn't the right way! But those damn Gorons have sealed off the path until tomorrow. I guess they don't want anybody to win this race..."
Folia and her mistress eventually surrendered. She noticed that Lamatte was still watching her and tried to reinvent herself.
"My name's Ruby, if you're wondering." she smiled under her black fringe. "I already know who you are: 'Lamatte the Gold Knight'. They were all talking about you back at the Rusty Pick Inn, like you were something special." Ruby sighed and turned to look at the mountain. "I guess I'll have to wait until morning before I can get rid of you."
Folia and Ruby galloped back into the Goron Caverns, leaving Lamatte amazed. "I guess we'll have to show her that we are something special, eh?" he smirked to Aurarius. But Aurarius was still staring longingly at the spot where Folia the Ginger Barb had just been.
Lamatte awoke in the morning, feeling a buzz. He dressed quickly, and left the makeshift male dormitory as quickyl as possible to eat breakfast, which consisted of eggs cooked by the Goron Chef. The atmosphere seemed less tense, as most of the racers were still tired and could not be bothered to argue.
Lamatte could not take his eyes off Ruby, but tried not to show it. Instead, he ended up dribbling yolk onto his tunic. Bella leant over from beside him and nudged him it the ribs.
"Concentrate on the race," she warned. "Or you'll be dead before dusk!"
Lamatte blushed and ate his breakfast quickly. He noticed that Newton was not present at the table, yet Stephano was devouring his meal as usual. He was wondering whether to question his absence until Gogorongo entered the kitchen, wearing his pointy hat. He smiled at Lamatte and then spoke to the table.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring news! The Chief has invited you to witness the opening of the Mountain! It is a very exciting event which only takes place during the Deresse Adventure Tour! I highly reccommend that you attend, and the race shall resume as soon as the door to the trial is unlocked!"
Gogorongo clapped in anticipation and departed for the great hall. The sleepy crowd burst into discussion about the mysterious 'opening of the mountain'.
"The Mountain only opens during this tournament, or in times of danger." Jerry explained. "Only the Chief can open the door to the Mountain Crater, and not many humans have seen it. We are very lucky." He kissed the red charm around his neck.
"We should ready Sanctus for the race, Jerry." said Bella. "So should you. I bet Ruby has." she said coldly to Lamatte, before leaving for the stables. Lamatte sighed as he realised Bella was right: Ruby had already left the table while the crowd were distracted. She had a habit of doing that.
Once the horses had been fed and watered, the twelve remaining contestants gathered in the great hall. Nobody was sure where the door to the Mountain was, or how it was going to open. Instead, they all gazed up hopefully to the morning sky which shone through the roof.
The Chief was already stood in the centre of the hall, looking cheerful and carefree as usual. He was surrounded by a tribe of Gorons, but not all were supporting him. One of the Gorons' voices echoed through the caverns louder and angrier than the rest.
"I can't believe you're doing this again!" the Goron hissed. "Every year, you give in to the humans and their horses and open the sacred sanctuary so they can run wild!"
"These humans are just having a little fun!" the Chief insisted. "There's nothing wrong with that, surely?"
"A little fun?! This is the home of the Mountain Mother, not some playground! I'm sure she does not agree with all this..."
"Angoron, these humans are risking their lives to win a small trophy. They are facing a test of their own abilities and loyalty. If it is their desire to reach the other side of the mountain, they who are we to stop them?"
"But you're the Chief of the Goron Tribe! You're supposed to be strong and stubborn, not letting the humans invade our territory and stroll straight through! This is why I should have been chosen as Chief..."
"Silence, Angoron!" the Chief boomed, and the whole room was startled, even Angoron. It was clear that the Chief was no longer in control of his words, and the great hall fell silent. "I am the leader of your people. I made my decision many years ago. Who are you to question it?"
"I-I apologise, your majesty..." Angoron quivered.
"You are forgiven...for now. I came here to unlock the door to the Mountain, so the humans may pass into the trial, and face me. I fully approve of their foolish courage to enter my sanctuary, and I remain in wait for those careless enough to fall into my pit of fire."
The Chief's piercing gaze darted top the roof, where the sunlight curled around the spiraling roof. A granite finger reached upwards and began to trace a circle in the air. Suddenly, the interior of the Goron Caverns shuddered with tremendous force. The riders huddled together in fear, and even Stephano clung to Newton's arm. Then, the floor of the great hall began to rotate, the spiraled path curling like a snake all around them. They watched a wall close over the route to the entrance hall, and another wall slide away, revealing a giant, ruby, metallic door bearing a golden Goron emblem.
The Chief's arm lowered and he blinked rapidly once more. His eyes cast upon the majestic doorway and laughed. "Behold, dear friend: The Mountain Sanctuary!"
The riders looked to one another, then proceeded towards the door. It was Julius who dismounted his steed and placed his palms on its glossy, yet ancient surface. The door parted with almost no effort, and Julius mounted Vinia once more to lead the riders to the second trail. Lamatte took one last look at the Goron Chief, who waved cheerfully before the doors resealed.
The heat hit them like a blast of fire. It was as though Lamatte and Aurarius had walked into an oven, and it was easy to see why. The sanctuary consisted of two pouring falls of red hot magma, both flowing to the centre, which was a glowing, pulsating lake of lava.
The path before them was laid out in a mosaic-style road, which crossed the lake of lava. Each rider followed in a single line, marvelling at the fiery lake below. It was still Julius who was leading them, until an orange coat sped past him. Folia and Ruby were now quite a distance ahead of the line, and Stephano protested: "Hey! She's cheating!"
"It seems you've forgotten that this is a race!" she chuckled, and continued to push her steed, until they stopped midway. The bridge they had been crossing had crumbled into the lava below, leaving them stranded. Opposite them was a massive iron disc, rotating in the pool of fire, connected to the path by a single chain.
"You didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you?" Jerry laughed, and joined the front of the line. "This is the only way to cross the lake...we just need to disconnect the chain, then it's a matter of survival!"
Sanctus raced forward and leapt onto the floating disc. "Come on!" he beckoned to the others.
Ruby and Folia snarled and jumped the gap, before the rest of the line all piled onto the round iron platform. Julius made his way to the centre, and took his usual leading position: "We need to all stay still, and wait for the current of the lava to take us."
"Where?" a girl called from the back.
Julius pointed directly ahead of them. Across the raging hot river, there was a tall statue of a woman holding a spear in her right hand, and a lantern in her left. There was a stone stairway which curled around the statue all the way to the lantern, which glowed with the light of day.
"So, who's going to cut the chains?"
"Allow me!" Stephano dismounted Laurus and rolled his sleeves up as he approached the iron chain. His fists gripped the links, and the riders watched him heave and tug at them until he was panting for breath. "I'm not...ready yet..."
Lamatte sighed, and dismounted Aurarius. Unsheathing his golden sword, he slashed the chain with ease. The platform turned as the current of the lava began to take them down the stream, leaving the riders clinging to their reigns. Stephano slipped away as Lamatte mounted Aurarius. Neither saw eye to eye, but Stephano's hatred was clear.
Nobody stirred as the disc took them through the sanctuary. The horses were shaking with uncertainty, but the journey seemed cool and calm. Ruby seemed frustrated with the fact that she could not gallop ahead of the rest, while Bella and Jerry began to yawn with boredom.
Suddenly, there was a quake which shook the whole sanctuary. The horses whinnied in distress, and the riders glanced from one another. The rumbling continued, and they all turned to the road they had since left. The sea of magma parted, and the riders cried out.
A giant head of a lion formed from the flames, and roared with might that shook the mountain. Its blazing jaws opened and sank into the lava, before the beats began to creep through the lake towards them. Lamatte watched in awe until a hand grabbed his shoulder.
"Gold Knight, you must have faced things like this!" Julius cried. "What should we do?"
Lamatte was paralysed, his eyes transfixed on the oncoming monster. He had never witnessed such horror in his life, and he did not know how to react. Once it reached them, they would be consumed in fire. This was the Mountain's test. This was the second trial.
"Move it, guys!" Jerry's voice called, and the crowd retreated behind Sanctus and the chariot. Bella readied the cannon and a spout of water sprayed the stream of lava, cooling it and forming rock. However, it was not powerful enough to reach the Mountain Lion, and it engulfed the rocks in flame.
"Not to worry!" Stephano yelled. "I have a weapon which will annihilate this monstrosity in an instant!" He turned to Newton and hissed: "Where's the crate?"
"Here." Newton passed Stephano a crate which he had carried on Fulgaria's back. Stephano snatched it and opened the lid to find a jumble of scrap metal.
"What's this?" he snapped, and showed it to Newton.
Newton did not need to see the contents of the crate before replying. "Oh...I...erm...dismantled the device."
"WHAT?!" Stephano shrieked. "But...why? It was our secret weapon!!!"
The crate was thrust back into Newtons arms, and he flushed at Stephano's anger. The fiery beast was advancing ever closer and all hope seemed lost. Lamatte was still petrified and his sword remained static.
Then, another sound echoed within the sanctuary. Lamatte's eyes squinted through the hazy heat and saw a boulder accelerating towards them, bouncing over the pool of lava. The shape crashed through the scorching blaze of the Mountain Lion and reached the iron disc before standing up. It was Gogorongo, looking stressed and exhausted who greeted Lamatte at the edge of the disc.
"Gogorongo...what are you doing here?"
"I came to help you." he said. "You will never succeed this trial without a Goron."
With all his might, Gogorongo gripped the edge of the iron disc and began to push them through the lake. The lion watched, enraged, but did not accelerate. The rest were in awe of the Goron's strength and waited on the platform as they were taken to the other side. Finally, the beast of the Mountain surrendered, and submerged itself to the depths of the crater.
The riders dispatched onto the shore of the lake, and thanked Gogorongo for his assistance.
"It was nothing," he said sincerely. "I was heading through the sanctuary anyway."
"But I thought that Gorons weren't permitted to go beyond the sanctuary?" Jerry interjected.
Everybody turned to Gogorongo, who turned and snapped. "It's none of your business, human!" He saw the frightened faces of horses retreat away from him and sighed. "What I mean is, it is the Mother's wish that I leave Goron Caverns. I have a mission to carry out."
With no further information, Gogorongo advanced up the winding stairway which curled around the statue of the Mountain Goddess. There was a low rumbling sound, and everybody panicked, until they noticed the iron disc shudder and sink below the surface of the lava. Lamatte and Aurarius immediately followed behind the Goron, and he began to question what had just happened.
"Was that lion...the Mountain Mother?"
"No." the Goron sighed. "The spirit of the Mother remains trapped inside the body of our Chief, until he passes to the next life and she chooses another host."
"So you're saying it was something which was always in the sanctuary?"
"Maybe. But as the doors only open once a year, nobody is truly sure of what lurks in the sanctuary."
They continued to climb the path around the statue. Lamatte watched her spear lunge over his head, and heard the sound of more hooves behind him. "I notice that the beast did not attack you. Why?"
"That lion was probably a creation of the Mother, instructed to challenge you. She would never harm her own people. Therefore, the beast had to retreat."
The Goron and the knight finally arrived at the top of the stairway. The lantern which the statue held in her hand was now a glowing orange. Gogorongo hesitated and waited for the others to arrive.
"Beyond here is the world we Gorons have never seen. You will have noticed that the area is marked on your map, and so you will know which path to take from here. I cannot offer you any more guidance, but I should tell you that there is a pair of travellers who roam this area giving potions and food to those in the tournament."
Ruby reached into her pockets and retrieved a map, which she unrolled and surveyed quickly, before returning it. Gogorongo turned and marched through the door of the sanctuary, followed closely by the others.
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