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Link lays awake that night, staring restlessly at stars.
She’d left, and he can’t for the life of him figure out how he’d let it happen.
The stories don’t help him sleep. He finds Farosh’s Tail and tells himself the story of the first thunderstorm and lifegiving rains it brought with it. He finds the Mighty Boar and the story of the first hunt, but he can’t imagine ever having an appetite again, so dwelling on that seems pointless. He finds the Great River, where the first woman stepped out of the waters and made herself a companion out of clay and animal bone and bits of dragon’s claws. When she pressed her mouth to his to give him breath, he was so grateful and awed by her that he kissed her again, trying to give it back.
His chest twists and cramps, and he rolls out of the hammock and feels his way down to the water in the dark.
The lake is still, the flagstones around the shrine are empty. But he can hear Mara humming at the pool, her song echoing out of the dragon’s mouth, lending it a voice. It’s not surprising. The old priestess never sleeps. He thinks he’s been quiet as he climbs the stairway beneath its teeth and drifts down its throat towards the light of the fire she keeps flickering at the goddess’s feet, but before he can make himself known she turns around and hands him a bowl of broth.
His lips move to form a question.
“I heard you not sleeping,” she says before he can ask, and when he opens his mouth again, “I know. But you need to eat something. This will keep you strong.”
He frowns, but takes it anyway, scenting the stock and taking a sip. He knows better than to argue with her. It tastes of porgy and thistle, and just a hint of banana. Her brow is arched at him when he chances a glance in her direction again.
“Did you really think she would stay? Leave everything and everyone she knows behind, just to be with you?”
“I didn’t think she would stay,” he argues, but quickly finds he has no where to go. “I just... never thought she would leave.”
“Typical,” she chides him, smiling, and turns to lower herself into the pool. “Leading with your heart, without thought for what might be. Without fear. You are a dragon through and through.”
He drinks, just so he can’t ask the question trying to squirm its way out of his mouth. He swallows and asks it anyway. “Was that wrong of me?”
She barks a laugh, so loud he hunches his shoulders and glances warily up into the colonnade, and wades out with her palms skimming the water’s surface.
“Oh, Link. What are we going to do with you? You are what you are.”
He downs the rest of his broth, folding his legs under him to sit at the water’s edge. He doesn’t dare dip his feet in, as inviting as Mara makes it seem. He knows better, even if he is so dragonlike.
“Have you been to the spires?” he asks, planting an elbow on his knee so he can drop his jaw against his fist, and she laughs again, more a puff of air than a bark.
“No, of course not. My place is here.” The water around her hums, glows gently, as though harboring lightning. She glances curiously up at the statue, and then turns with a knowing look in her eye. “Have you even thought about what you’ll do when you find her?”
Mara snorts at him before he can deny it and turns back to the goddess, humming as she sways her hips. The waters glows a little brighter, just a pulse, and then it’s fading again. He doesn’t understand the communion at all; but then, it really isn’t for him to understand.
His words at the edge of the plains echo in his head instead—too loud to be memory, too distinct. Trapped in him, shoved deep in his brain when they ricocheted meaninglessly off her ears. As infuriatingly unintelligible to her as Mara’s song is to him.
You can’t leave. I have too much I want to say. Too many things I don’t have the words for!
He remembers the rise of panic in his throat, the awful clench in his stomach when he realized he had no way to tell her and that she was mere seconds from disappearing forever. How frustrating it was to know useless words like rain and bird and banana, and none of the meaningful ones he needed, like fire or breathless or love.
If you go, I’ll only follow you, he’d tried to tell her. I’d follow you anywhere.
He feels stupid for it now. How futile that had been.
“They’re not like us,” Mara says—sighing, like she’s talking into the wind. “They lean towards the other balances. Far-sighted as an owl, single-minded as a boar. It’s makes them anxious. They’ll fear you because you’re different.”
He frowns. What a strange reason to fear something.
“Are there no dragons there at all?”
“A few,” she smirks. “But none so dragonlike as you.”
He stares up at the goddess, watching impassively over the world with powerful, unseeing eyes. For the first time he feels an unpleasant twinge of doubt. Maybe they’re too different. Maybe she’ll foresee too many problems (because there’s no doubting towards which of the balances she leans). Maybe it will take too much courage to love him.
He doesn’t like feeling doubt. He’s not used to it at all.
“They’re her children too, you know,” she hums, the water around her pulsing again with submerged light. “Though as I recall they believe she came from the sky, not the waters.”
He frowns harder. “Who’s right?”
She turns to smile at him over her shoulder. “Does it matter?”
Mara goes back to her humming. All at once he feels unwelcome—perhaps because the water gets darker the longer he looks, and brighter when it’s barely in his peripheral, like the goddess is urging him away. Perhaps because she’s humming much louder than before, like she’s trying to drown him out.
He’s getting to his feet and retreating from the spring before he can draw any more conclusions.
For a moment he feels in a fog. But then, beneath the row of stone teeth, watching an icy moon begin its slow descent, the old priestess’s words snap together like puzzle pieces, and the doubt melts from the heat sparking off them.
You are what you are.
He doesn’t know if she meant to chide him or encourage him, but either way, if a dragon is what he is, why does he pretend to be anything else?
He climbs back into the colonnade to gather a few necessities and heads out into the plains with the morning light.
I'm thinking about lpau, how the first players to have non-player children. The heartbreak that would come the first time they realized respawn didn't apply to them. How the lifespan of a player is so much longer than a non-player, how many generations of their descendants they would see come and go... Might honestly make this one of the most heartbreaking Minecraft AU's I know of
The life of a Player is fraught with danger and death, but death is simply a setback. Even broken bones only take a couple weeks to heal with adequate food, and less with even a basic regeneration effect.
But these people… the Players didn’t even understand it, at first. Many kids died before word got around, because the Players just assumed they’d respawn, that they’d be fine, like it always had been… they didn’t raise them with much of a self-preservation instinct, because they themselves didn’t need one.
Players often lived twice, sometimes three times as long as their counterparts, even without factoring how many died prematurely before everything was adequately nonplayer-proofed. Some Players even had to bury their great-grandkids, while their own hair was only starting to grey.