You clench your jaw, staring at the boy making his way hopefully forward. You try to work up the determination and resolve to doom him to one of the piles of his predecessors... But you can't. You let the rock fall silently back into the grass, feeling guilty, both for being cruel enough to consider sacrificing the boy and for being too weak to do it.
You don't regret your decision, though. If you are to defeat the evil hunger polluting the world, you have to be better than the predator's that feed on the deaths of others. You can't in good faith claim to fight for the innocent if you have to get them killed to do it. You'll just have to find another way out.
In the meantime, you wait for your fellow escapee to make his venture. His progress has slowed to almost a complete standstill, as he grows nearer and nearer to the exit and to Wick. You realize your own heart is pounding in anxiety for him, and you take a quiet breath to steady yourself.
The brave young boy is now within arms reach of the predator, and you can practically taste his fear. Every movement he takes is minute and calculated, as if it could be his last, which it very well could. He finally reached the hollow log leading out of the clearing, and he pauses, looking up at the guardian, who is as still as stone, hair obscuring most of her features. The lad bends down to duck into the log, putting one foot inside. You see his head disappear into the exit, and you let out a silent sigh. He made it.
Then Wick moves her arm. The boy doesn't see it, but you do. Slowly, almost casually, she lowers her arm towards the fugitive. She stays completely still, save for her arm. She grasps the hem of his tunic just before it slips out of view, and you hear him yelp as she jerks her arm back, flinging the boy from the tree trunk. You stifle a gasp as the boy lands on his back with a thump and hurries to scramble to his feet. Wick moves forward slowly and deliberately, and reaches her prey just as he makes it to his feet. He turns away, trying to sprint out of reach, but she snags him by the bag of his collar, pulling him back towards her. He writhes and twists, but his tunic is caught firmly in her fist. Suddenly, he does something clever. He pulls his arms out of his sleeves and slides down, leaving Wick holding an empty tunic. He begins dashing away, and actually makes it a few steps before Wick catches up to him again and seizes him by his blonde hair. He squeals as his naked body is lifted squirming into the air, legs flailing.
"What's going on out there?" Navi hisses silently, but you pay her no mind. The boy's little trick forced Wick to chase him... Leaving the trunk unguarded. You look from the struggling duo to the exit, guaging the distance. This may be your only chance. Seizing the opportunity, you hurry forward, trying to be as quick and as quiet as possible. You glance at Wick and see her lowering the wailing boy feet first into her mouth. He sobs as his feet slide between her lips and into her throat. You wish you could help him, but you know you'd only be seconds if you tried to interfere. You reach the log and check once more to see if Wick has noticed you. You see her back is still turned towards you and you let out a relieved breath. She hasn't seen you.
But someone else has. As Wick lowers the whimpering boy towards certain death, he simply hangs limp from her grip, realizing resistance is futile. Apparently noticing your movement, he raises his gaze over Wick's head and his eyes light on you. He frowns and goes silent for a second, then his eyes widen. "Hey... Hey! Help me! Please!" He cries, starting to thrash suddenly. "You gotta help me, pleeease!! Don't let her! Don't let her eat me!"
You freeze, heart pounding as he gives you away. You wait, hoping Wick will just think he's crying out desperately for anyone. Slowly, Wick turns, and your heart drops into the pit of your stomach as her cold blue eye fixed on you. The two of you hold each other's gaze for a horrible moment. You are too terrified to move, and you seem to have forgotten how to breathe. The boy is buried up to his midriff in Wick's maw, and he struggles and whines pitifully, hanging upside down from her mouth.
"Please..." He whimpers, then he shrieks suddenly as Wick slurps him up as quick as lighting. In the same instant, she sprints towards you, taking off at dizzying speed. You yelp and get hold of yourself, frantically crawling into the log and scrambling into it. You hear her dive after you, trying to catch you, and you gasp as you feel her fingertips brush the back of your tunic. You crawl away in a panic and spin around, expecting to see her reaching for you. Instead, you see her peering in after you, just outside the log. Her latest meal's arm still protrudes from her mouth at the elbow, flailing and grabbing for help. Wick stares at you balefully, but doesn't follow. She tilts her head, allowing her hair to slide away, and you suck in a breath. For the first time, you see her eye, the one always hidden by her bangs. It isn't blue or cold like her other eye. It is a blazing orange, flickering and glimmering with heat. She stares, seeming to cut into your soul, and you stare back, unable to tear your gaze away. Slowly and meaningfully, she begins to suck the poor boy's arm into her mouth, slurping it down with cruel patience. His fingers wiggle desperately before they slide behind her thick lips, and she swallows with a resounding gulp. You hear the faint cries of her prey as he descends into death and digestion. You sit motionless where you are, just waiting for her to come in after you to send you to join him. You know you would stand no chance of escape if she pursues you. Navi peeks out from your cap and you hear her gasp in startlement. Wick continues to stare, her eye boring into you with burning intensity. You vaguely realize that you've seen eyes like that before, first in Gohma, then in Saria.
"Let's go, Link..." Navi whispers softly, as if too much noise could spell doom for you both. "Just... Back away... Slowly..." You nod, and swallow nervously. Pressing your palms against the base of the trunk, you push back, inching away just a bit. You wait, expecting an expedited trip through Wick's bowels any moment. She doesn't move. She doesn't even seem to blink. Again, you scoot back, not daring to turn away.
Wick moves suddenly, and you suck in a breath. You hear Navi squeak in surprise, and you both watch as she simply pulls away, going out of view. You stare at the opening, but she doesn't reappear.
"Go, go, go!" Navi urges, and the accumulated panic inside you spills out. You whirl around into the darkness and crawl like a madman, breathing heavily and moving as fast as possible. You can almost sense her at your heels, hear the growls of her gut and feel her breath on your neck. Ahead is only darkness, Navi's glow illumating just a foot or so in front of you. You crawl like what seems for hours, afraid to stop and afraid to look behind you. You crawl and crawl, grasping at the wood around you and propelling yourself forward. It's hot and cramped, and you begin to feel a frantic sense if claustrophobia. You wonder if this is what being eaten feels like.
Finally, you put your hand forward and catch nothing but air. You pitch forward with a cry, and land face first in a patch of grass. You scramble quickly to your feet and spin around, but it's just you and Navi.
"We... Made it?" Navi asks breathlessly. "We did it! We're out!" You smile and nod your head, maasively relieved. You glance around at your new surroundings. You're still in the forest, with trees and shrubbery covering the ground. It's dark, but a little moonlight is filtering through the leaves overhead, allowing you to see a bit. Tentatively, you move forward, keeping a wary eye out for danger. Navi hovers close by, surveying the surroundings with you. Soon the trees begin to think out, becoming sparser, and you find the makings of an overgrown old path. You follow it for a ways, having no clue where you might be going. The shadows in the thinking trees around you seem to shift and dance almost, and you keep thinking you see movement. Your heart begins to thump as you get that awful sensation of being watched, the feeling of eyes on you. Something moves overhead, and you freeze, turning your head slowly up.
A huge owl is peering down at you, head cocked. You jump back in startlement, then take a breath. Just a bird...
"Link," the bird whispers, and you and Navi yelp in shock. "Shhh!" The talking owl warns hurriedly. "You must be quiet, or we will be heard. I haven't long, so listen carefully." You blink, staring up at the owl. You nod, signaling him to continue. "I am Kaepora Gaebora..." He begins, speaking in a hushed, quick voice. "As I'm sure you know by-"
He pauses, and twists his head around suddenly. "What was that? Did you.." Suddenly you hear a sound, a screeching noise, seeming far away. "Oh, g-goddess, she's here.." Kaepora Gaebora says in a panicked tone.
"Who's here?" Navi asks, but the owl doesn't answer. He unfurls his wings and makes to take flight when another screech sounds, this time much louder and closer. A pale figure glides into view overhead, with big wings flapping. It zips downward towards you and the owl, and you shriek as it crashes into the ground with Kaepora Gaebora in its talons. It's a huge bird, half as tall as the trees around it, with a colorful face and white plumage. A bundle of rainbow, tail-like feathers streams from its backsides, and its eyes are bright yellow. It squawks ominously as it grips the flapping bird in its claws.
"N-nooooo! Release me at once, you f-f-fiend!" The owl cries, and you watch dumbfounded as he turns from an owl into a man, a fat, bearded old man with white hair and brown robes. He writhes and fights for his life, but he can do nothing to escape his doom. "D-do something, hero! Save me!" He cries desperately, but before you can react, the giant bird opens its mouth and pecks downward, snapping its pointed beak around the poor man and lifting him off the ground. "NOOO, HEEELP!! N-NOT LIKE THIIIIS!! NOT YOU!! NOOOOOOoooooo...." The meal's screams grow fainter as the massive bird takes a few jerking gulps and he slides down its gullet. His form bulges out of its throat for a few seconds before slipping downward and disappearing beneath a white sheen of feathers.
The bird squawks contentedly, taking a few seconds to let its meal settle. You and Navi say nothing, but stand motionless, hoping maybe the monster hasn't noticed you. You can just barely make out the terrified cries of the bird food inside the massive bird, and you shudder, blood pumping. The bird crows triumphantly, and then its white plumage begins to bristle and shake. All of a sudden, it shrinks rapidly, morphing and shifting into a new form in a matter of seconds. Now, instead of a giant bird, a tall, slender woman stands before you, clothed in white, draping sheets of cloth. Her hair is feathery and white, reaching far down her back. Her body is slim and long, mostly hidden beneath her strange clothes. From the side, you can see that her face is elegant and defined, with a sharp nose, high cheekbones, and stern eyebrows.
She's rubbing her belly, which, at her new size, is bulging with her latest meal. The fat man writhes and cries inside, now more noticeable.
"Oh, foolish man," she murrs in a deep, snobby voice. "How long have you run, and all for naught? This was ordained, my delicious Rauru. Your time has long been over, your duty served. Only one task remains you now... And you must now pay the price for fleeing it so long. May my gizzard be your final hell."
You shudder at her searing words and cruel voice, as a grumbling noise sounds from the bloated woman's belly, accompanied by frenzied screams of pain. You watch, half hidden in the shadows of the trees, as the smirking female grinds her prey into paste. He shrieks and writhes in pathetic agony, begging, cursing, and sobbing all the while.
"This might have been pleasant, had you obeyed your dictates.. well, not pleasant, no, but certainly less torturous. In the next and final moment of your existence, you will live to see your bones ground to powder and your flesh mashed to chyme. The peace of death shall only be granted when you can know no further pain, and all because you would not accept your end. But fear not, my treat. I shall make a far better Sage of Light than you ever could have hoped to be."
The slowly disintigrating man let's out a pitiful roar of desperation and pain, eliciting a chuckle from his tormentor. Your muscles ache from standing so still, and your heart pounds madly in your head. The heartless predator continues to stare intently at her juggling gut, rubbing, prodding, and groping, still seemingly unaware of you or Navi. Tentatively, you take a step back, agonizingly slowly, then another. You keep your eyes fixed on the white-clad bird woman, ready to bolt at the slightest hint of a threat.
"Oh, come now," she says suddenly, and you freeze. She doesn't look up from her screaming meal. "Do you truly believe I hadn't seen you, foolish boy? Your fairy shines brighter than the moon."
You groan internally, feeling both stupid and frightened. You had forgotten about Navi and her glow. "Sorry..." She whispers sheepishly. Your feel a sinking sense of despair as the engorged woman turns her cold features towards you. You really do not want to be dessert, and you tense, ready to sprint for cover.
"Stay where you are, boy, and wipe that cowardice from your face. I'm not here to feast on you, unless you annoy me. If you run from me, or draw your weapon on me, rest assured I will be very annoyed," she says in a commanding tone. Your instincts are itching to flee, or at least to fight, but the steel in her voice keeps those urges at bay. You swallow and stay rooted to the spot, and nod.
"That's a good cur," she smirks. "Now, listen closely, for I hate to repeat myself. I don't know what the fools you've dealt with so far have told you. That oaf of an oak kept you in the dark far too long, and now things are all mixed up. I trust you at least understand your identity?" She looks to you for confirmation, and you nod. A few cracking noises come from inside her, and the slowly dying screams of the man inside are renewed with horrible vigor. You can see that her gut has grown tighter and tighter, shrinking to half its former size. You briefly imagine what sort of shape the poor meal would have to be in to fit into such a space, and quickly shut the image from your mind, trying not to focus on his sobbing pleas for death.
The haughty woman is entirely unfazed by the caterwauling prey, her focus now centered on you. "Well, that's something, anyway," she continues. "And what task did the old weed assign you?" You scratch your head, but Navi intercedes.
"We have to look for someone, like the goddess reborn or some nonsense. Zelda was her name I think, but-"
"Yes, yes, but what if your grand goal? Your mission, as it were?"
"Oh," Navi says, and thinks for a moment. "We have to get the Triforce... And wish for the curse to be lifted."
The woman is quiet for a moment, staring back at you and Navi. Kaepora Gaebora, or Rauru, or whoever, whimpers, barely audible from within her murderous stomach. Abruptly, she begins to laugh, a cold, harsh sound. She laughs out loud for a few seconds, then smacks her belly forcefully, eliciting a deadly snap and an agonized wail from inside it. "So that was the game, eh? Oh, you foolish, foolish men. No wonder you thought you had a chance of escaping your fate! Oho, thought you had a trump card, didn't you? Hilarious... Well, Rauru, what now? Did your gamble pay off? Tell me, was it worth it, now that you're drowning in a pool of your own remains? Bless your soul... Bless your useless, pathetic, washed up and hilariously weak little soul."
Still chuckling, she clenches her tummy tight. Rauru lets out a scream that soon turns to choking, garbled noises, accented by a sound like boots on gravel. You resist the urge to retch, as she relaxes her gut once more, now just a sloshing bit of chub.
"Uh... S-so... That's not what we're supposed to do? Who are you, anyway?" Navi asks warily.
The ruthless girl wipes her eye, still smirking. "I am Helma, of course, emissary from the goddess and the new Sage of Light. As you can see, my predecessor is no longer fit for such service," she says, pinching the pudge his death left behind.
"And my other question? Are we not supposed to wish away the curse?" Navi prods. Helma cocks her head, considering, a strange expression on her face.
"Of course you are," she says slowly, amusement dancing in her eyes. You and Navi glance at each other apprehensively, but Helma continues talking. "However, your primary goal, the most important task at hand is Gana's defeat. She must not be allowed control of Hyrule. If men must continue to litter the land in piles of stinking waste to bring that about, so be it. Gana must not prevail over the goddess again, or all will fall victim to her appetite. But yes, if you somehow manage to strike her down and obtain the Triforce, then by all means, wish away this 'curse'. Free your fellow men from their role as dinner." You nod uncertainly, not sure what to make of her words.
"I will be here and about to monitor your progress and offer guidance, but make no mistake. Should some woman, girl, or beast make a meal of you, expect no salvation from me. I am forbidden to rob a woman of her sustenance, no matter how fine the meat. So be mindful. Should you find yourself in any guts, the only way you get out is by her mercy or through the natural workings of biology."
You indicate your understanding with an uneasy nod. "What, can't you speak?" Helma asks irritably. "I must go now, I have business to attend to elsewhere. I trust you understand your duty as I have explained it to you?"