Tears of the Kingdom

First Play Diary

A journal of my first playthrough of Tears of the Kingdom.

Last updated: June 25, 2023

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Week One

May 11, 2023

Midnight EST releases sometimes mean 9 PM PST releases, and my partner and I went to one at Gamestop at the mall for Tears of the Kingdom. There must've been a couple hundred people there, with lots in their clearly-favorite Zelda shirts and some in their Walmart Link cosplays, and everyone was in a good mood -- lots of smiles and laughs and some group cheers. The line was long (it stretched all the way from the food court to the mall exit and looped back around a ways) but it moved pretty quick, and before I knew it, I had the game in my hands. It felt too easy for how excited I was.

We took a Lyft home with a very fun nonbinary person our age as our driver and were back by a quarter til. We didn't plan dinner -- too preoccupied with Zelda, not that we're ever good about dinner planning anyway -- so we got something from a quiet place open late nearby just shortly before they closed for the night. My partner got her own copy since we knew we'd both get sucked in and it'd be hard to share, but I knew she wanted to watch the beginning scenes with me first, so we got all settled before I launched the game.

I can't tell you how excited I was. The cold open, just the black screen with "Nintendo Presents / The Legend of Zelda / Tears of the Kingdom," Zelda quickly revealing that the Zonai are closely related to the royal family and that they lived in the sky, a namedrop of the Imprisoning War we haven't heard much at all about since A Link to The Past, the realization that no one knows Ganondorf in this timeline, only Ganon, the way the tunnel got so steep and dark and narrow, Ganondorf knowing Link and Zelda's names, referencing Rauru, implying that Link let Rauru down... I was about to jump out of my skin.Is this the Fallen Hero timeline? Or the Era of Decline, whatever we want to call it? The timeline where the Hero of Time failed to defeat Ganondorf, and a war was waged to seal him away?

Mural with Ganondorf attacking Hyrule. Zelda says, 'This is the Imprisoning War and the events that led up to it!' Ganondorf looking at Link with scorn. He says, 'Rauru placed his faith in you...' Ganondorf continues, 'and that was all you could do?'

The full title and logo finally appearing when Link awakens and jumps down onto Great Sky Island felt both in line with Breath of the Wild, and yet very fresh and exciting. And that's what it feels like exploring the Great Sky Island so far, that same freedom of BOTW, of running around and exploring, but new -- and I know from the basic review notes I've seen floating around that the map is huge, dense, doubly that of BOTW, and I'm so excited. I know already that it'll grab me the way BOTW did, perhaps even harder with dungeons and side quests and lore and just so much.

Meeting Rauru and seeing that he was a Zonai, not the old sage we expect to see from Ocarina of Time, and finding that he's the source of our new arm -- and that he's been talking to Zelda! -- is intriguing and exciting. Is he the Rauru I know, somehow? Is he a reincarnating sage? I'm excited to find out.

Zonai creature, goatlike with long ears and a ghostly arm. A title floats above him: 'Rauru / Source of the Right Arm'

I haven't yet got into the Temple of Time, though I was dedicated to getting there before going to bed. I was just too tired after a long day at work and the excitement of a new game, and eventually I gave in at 1:30 AM and went to bed with two shrines completed. My partner kept playing in the living room (with Japanese audio on, since she likes the Japanese dub better, but it works out nicely to not spoil me), and the sounds from the other room kept my brain going until well after 2.

May 12, 2023

I started playing today in the early afternoon with the windows open and the late spring smell coming in. I finished the third shrine and returned to the Temple of Time, where Zelda's echo gave me the Recall ability. I was really touched by the tenderness of the scene -- between this and Zelda's "I'll be okay if I'm with you" line from the beginning scene, it's clear that Link and Zelda have a close bond, however you choose to interpret it, and that makes me happy. After this, I did the fourth Great Sky Island shrine, and I kept thinking about the way Recall is described, and how it specifically reverses something's movement through time, not space. After I completed the shrine I hurried back to pass through the giant doors within the temple.

Link standing before a floating Zelda

Rauru fading away after this was bittersweet. I get the impression he's been waiting (or simply unable) to pass on until the seal was broken and he no longer needed to linger, and while I would love to hear more about his world in his words, it feels right for him to finally rest after saying goodbye to the Garden of Time and leaving things in Link's care.

I was very pleasantly surprised by (read: I freaked out over) the Master Sword resonating with Fi's alert noise from Skyward Sword when I approached the orb of light beyond the door, and then by the Master Sword, placed within that orb the same color as Recall magic, seemingly flying backwards in time, to a Zelda in the same place, but alone, with the same grayscaling we see when using Recall. I wonder where she is in time, when she is, and how Link will get there.

Mark for the Recall power glowing gold on Link's hand Link standing in front of a gold orb of light, the same color as the Recall magic, while the Master Sword glows on his back Zelda holding the Master Sword, illuminated with the Recall magic gold outline, in a grayscale world

After this, I descended into Hyrule. Very quickly it became obvious it's been a minute since BOTW based on how much construction and community organizing has happened.

I mostly explored the area between Lookout Landing and Hyrule Castle at first; and was struck by the construction of new houses in the Castle Town ruins. Everyone living on the surface feels very hopeful for the future, albeit concerned about recent occurrences, and everyone is working together to do everything they can to reconstruct Hyrule.

Basic house foundations near covered building materials in Castle Town ruins

I'm also struck by how everyone knows and admires Link and Zelda. Everyone is looking for them. Everyone is thrilled to see Link, and everyone aspires to be like him. It also strikes me because Zelda was told she was and felt like a failure that everyone was disappointed in pre-Calamity. It feels good to see her sacrifice recognized and her focus on research respected and encouraged.

Talking to Purah (who has somehow reversed her de-aging experiment, and is a very cute young woman now) when I returned, I made a mental note about her comment that "This Rauru you met... I think that's what the first king of Hyrule was named." On my way to talk to the leader of the search party for Link and Zelda, I took a detour to an observation room, then down a hidden royal passageway, where I found a stone tablet that sort of corroborates this:

Deep beneath this land, our mighty first ruler imprisoned the Demon King.

To ensure the king's magic would hold, we erected a castle here to protect this sacred site.

Without this castle in place, the site may be disturbed, allowing the Demon King's hatred and rage to be revived.

The preservation of this castle is therefore tied to the prosperity of the kingdom.

May it watch over an eternal peace.

Stone tablet in the castle. The text for the first piece of the above quote is onscreen

There are a ton of offshoot passageways in the hidden passageway tower, and at the bottom a cavern with thick layers of rock to break through, then lots of twisting caverns branching off from there, which I spent some time trying to explore. I died repeatedly to an electric like-like, and eventually accepted that I was too weak to explore this seemingly huge area, and left to meet up with the search party leader. I'm very excited to come back some time! After I met up with him and we saw Zelda (or some echo of her) turn into light and float away, I went back to Lookout Landing.

The modern towers are a nice replacement for the ancient ones in BOTW, and I think launching Link up is both cute (he's so expressive in this one -- he was so silly and flustered when he activated it!) and cool, since you get a nice view of the area you've just mapped.

Back on land I was surprised to hear multiple people mention pirates invading Lurelin. Who are they? Are they monsters? Hyruleans? Where did they come from, if neither? Very excited to check that out.

I spent the last part of my play time in the chasm, but before that I helped the goofy signs guy in the Castle Town ruins hold up his sign, and seeing that he used the help not to add another leg on the other side for balance, but to ridiculously fortify the one leg he already had made me laugh out loud. I also was blindsided by Evermeans, the tree mimics, when poking around the Lon Lon Ranch ruins, which was very funny.

When I hopped down into the chasm, I was fascinated. I was there to get a picture of something -- it turned out to be a statue -- that might match a carving from the depths showing a person for Josha. She says it's a sign people used to live down there, which fascinates me. I was also very curious about what the blins were mining zonaite for down there.

Statue in the depths showing some kind of person with their arms raised

The clusters of poes in the depths interest me. The statue in Lookout Landing that helps them move on said something about them being trapped souls that haven't moved on to the afterlife, and I wonder why there are so many down there. It also indicates there is no difference between good and evil (from a Hyrulean perspective) beings when it comes to poes, implying that the spirits of both good and evil beings reside here. How did they get here? Was a war fought down in the depths?

My favorite find of the day seems to point to this as well. I spotted him from afar, the ghostly shade of a Hyrulean knight atop a stone piling, still clutching his spear. I was immediately intrigued but approached cautiously in case he was dangerous. He did nothing, and his form wavered when I accidentally swung my weapon. When I picked up his spear, he floated away into nothingness.

Screenshot taken while using the scope feature, showing a floating, ghostly knight figure Link posing from a distance with the soldier Link posing with the soldier Screenshot taken right as Link picks up the spear. The soldier is starting to float upward and disintegrate

May 13, 2023

Not much story progression today as I keep getting distracted by potential exploration spots, especially the wells and caves. I visited a lot today. My favorite, and I think the first one of the day, was the deep, winding Ancient Tree Stump Cave, where I found a shrine (the praying kind, not the gameplay kind) in the innermost chamber watching over some Fierce Deity boots. There were many others, too, though. I met a Satori by offering an apple under a cherry blossom tree, and, to my surprise, he lit up all the cave entrances on the map, so I marked off as many as I could see and checked them all out. One well had a Stalnox buried under some rubble, and when I finally cleared it all bout of the way he awoke and started throwing bones at me, literally ripping his ribs and jaw off his skeleton to attack me. When I made my way to Kakariko Village, I found Zonai ruins in the well there, but also Cottla the young child's "secret base," with a little trail of apples leading into the crevice where she keeps her mother's journal -- the very same she seems to get her recipes from in her BOTW sidequest -- and grows carrots and pumpkins.

Screenshot taken while collecting Fierce Deity boots from cave shrine. The text says, 'According to legend, these boots were once worn by a hero from a world in which the moon threatened to fall. Wearing them provides godlike power.'

Kakariko Village was, ideally, where I was trying to go all day, actually, despite Purah pointing me toward Hebra, and then Cado pointing me there, too, when I finally got closer to Kakariko. I couldn't help but be drawn to it as the center of Zonai research, especially when a random traveler I encountered told me there were "some stone slabs with words like 'sage' and 'Demon King' carved in Zonai script" alongside the stone ruins there -- and that someone there could translate Zonai script, somehow.

On the way there, besides for spelunking, I stole some blins' steak roasting over a fire and was immediately shot and killed for it, found my first stable (Wetland Stable!), made a camp of blins and a camp of fallen constructs fight each other, found two(!) golden apples in one orchard, ran into Beedle, spotted my first battle talos and decided to go a different direction, and built my first real car with steering and everything, then immediately lost it when I hopped off to check something out and it rolled down the road fast. The second one I made wasn't as cool.

When I finally made it, I was reluctant to quit playing since I wanted to check out all the Ring Ruins as soon as I could, especially after the one slab I found revealed that those that hold the special stones -- probably the tears -- are sages, and Paya told me Zelda had actually been here recently, ordering everyone to stay away from the still-floating ruin. And I'd been trying to get there all day, after all! But my brain was pretty scrambled from fatigue, my midday nap be damned, and I knew I was gonna need my rest for a busy Mother's Day shift tomorrow, so I gave in and turned off my Switch. Tomorrow I'll find a way to get to that floating Ring Ruin.

Link reads a journal in one Ring Ruin titled 'Deciphered Slabs.' The text is broken up by ellipses. It says, 'Those ... worthy ... secret stones ... and henceforth ... sages' A photo taken from above Kakariko Village facing Hyrule Castle. A Ring Ruin resting on a stone arch with scaffolding encircles the castle's gloomy sillhoutte. A Silent Princess blooms in the grass in the bottom-right of the image

May 14, 2023

No matter what I did, I was not able to get to the floating ruin. I went way around, back by the chasm, so I wouldn't have to encounter the guard. Got caught. Went way around a different way. Got caught. Flew in from above, feeling smart as hell. Still got caught.

Link gliding over the floating ruin. A text box with large text says 'Hey! You there!'

I did find the other slabs, however. The Eastern Ring Ruin:

Wind, flame, water, lightning... and time... Light... Who holds the power... Secret Stone... and...

That person... dwell within... power... amplify... Great... might... display..."

After reading Tauro's translation notes on that slab, I turned around to see the dragon Naydra flying down into the chasm nearby. It was a very cool moment.

White dragon with glowing blue ridges along his body, diving into the gloom-infested chasm

I hit the Huge Ring Ruin next:

The Demon King... vast power... No hope... victory... King's own life... managed... imprison him...

Imprison... not... indefinitely... Prepare... Demon... revival... We sages must... leave our knowledge... future generations...

And the Southern Ring Ruin:

Who protect... of Hyrule from Demon King together... King... There were... known as sages...

I'm really excited to get to read the last slab. What I have access to right now doesn't paint too wild or new a picture to me, but I know there's gotta be something juicy in the last one.

Since getting to the floating ruin seemed to be a bust (for now), I messed around in Kakariko for a bit before going into the depths, my next main goal for the day. I found a lot of silliness, an element of BOTW I'm glad to see return, scattered around the village. At Ebah the gloom researcher's research camp, I laughed at the gloom in a little cage, put there like it was a naughty animal and not a goo that could easily ooze past the bars. I found the innkeeper I was looking for sleeping on a priceless Zonai tablet like a futon, only able to be awoken by the smell of the truffles he's hungrily sleeptalking about, and when I accidentally walked up onto the tablet trying to get a look at the guy, the researcher there yelled at me and Link got all sheepish and embarrassed about it. When I flew down into the plum orchard to talk to the sundelion researcher, I was immediately attacked by a highly trained platoon of cuccos. I accidentally helped resolve a decades-long beef between two old men about whether offense or defense is a cooler battle technique by fighting a bunch of blins, bringing them both to an epiphany that it's about balance. Certainly one of the most quietly appealing aspects of BOTW-era Hyrule is that so many of its random inhabitants are odd and particular, despite the seriousness and desolation around them.

Anyway, once I'd done as much sidequesting as I could, I headed down the East Hill Chasm. I was shocked by how completely dark it was when I landed -- there wasn't a research camp here like the Southern Hyrule Field Chasm. This region of the depths felt darker because of its terrain, too, all the winding roots and branches and giant mushrooms limiting how far into the darkness you could actually throw a brightbloom seed, and how much space it actually lit up.

And there were a lot more of those ghostly knight figures. I've decided that I'll release any of them I find, even if that means dropping a weapon to make space in my inventory, picking up theirs, dropping it, and picking up my weapon again (or jumping down and finding where it fell to, since the mounds they stand on don't have much standing room). They're stuck there, stuck to their weapons and the war they waged, and it feels wrong to leave them. My partner pointed out that they look a lot like cairns -- burial mounds. I think they're ghosts of the Imprisoning War.

Another ghostly soldier holding a sword

I also found another statue, this time a Zora.And then another, and then another, and more, sometimes close together in a line. I wonder if this is because I'm close to Lanayru. I couldn't tell what they were pointing me towards.

Lone Zora statue in the darkness of the depths A line of Zora statues in the darkness

I also discovered a big Yiga base (so that's where they all went!) where they'd clearly been building things Ultrahand-style. Where did they get this ability?

My last discovery down there was the big abandoned Kakariko Mine, presumably where Zonaite was once mined on a more organized scale. I found it very interesting that the big central structure looked like a clock from above, with stone hands radiating out from the center. Time was also an element a sage could master, I think, based on the slabs. What's up with time and the Zonai? And why was this place abandoned?

A construct there told me had something for me (how does he know Link?), but I need to go to the central mine first. My partner told me where that is, so maybe I'll do that tomorrow.

I finished up with a little side adventure on the surface, helping the monster fighting crew clear out a stronghold. It made me smile, Link being a part of a community like that. He's always there, helping out, but never really in a team like this. It felt nice.

Farmers cheering. The text says: Side Adventure, Bring Peace to Hyrule Field! Complete

May 15, 2023

Got a late start today because of work, but I ended up staying up late (way too late) playing TOTK, so it sort of balanced out. I decided to head toward the Great Plateau to find the Central Mining Facility after a tip from my wife. I saw some interesting stuff on the way. I spotted Farosh diving from afar, probably into another chasm, and wondered about what the dragons are doing down there, other than just flying around -- Naydra didn't seem to be up to much in the depths. I haven't seen Dinraal yet. I also Recalled my way up to a flower-shaped sky island with ancient Hyrulean text I can't read yet, but am excited to eventually translate. I marked it down on my map.

Link reading a Zonai tablet. The text box says, 'It's etched with ancient Hyrulean text. You cannot read it.'

I spent a lot of time in the Deya Lake area. There were seven (7) wells in that area, which kept me occupied for quite a while, and I found Rauru's blessing in a shrine in one. When I commented on the special shrine being really lovely, my partner said something like, "Yeah, the blessings" -- plural -- "are really pretty," so I'm excited to see who else offers blessings. Maybe other sages?

Link standing in a beautiful space of green light and white stone, with a text popup that says 'Rauru's Blessing, Susub Shrine'

The most exciting thing in the Deya Lake area, though, was when I suddenly stumbled across them, at first a dark puddle I scarcely noticed, and then suddenly dark, eyed hands that that wrought gloom, brought a crimson moon into the sky, gripped Link as if crushing his bones and left him with gloom poisoning. I panicked, and after running and shooting and realizing there was no real way for me to fight back and wittling Link's health down to one heart, I warped away. I came back a few times, trying to fight them, and on my last attempt they disappeared before I could kill them, leaving behind a dark clump. They wouldn't respawn after that.

Hand monsters reaching toward the camera, yellow eyes full of animal hate Hand monsters wreathed by red sky

I eventually dropped down into a chasm east of the Great Plateau and headed vaguely west, taking all kinds of detours. I noticed that the mark the statue that exchanges poes at Lookout Landing had put on my map was nearby and headed over, shocked to find the Bargainer Statue was actually the size of a large hill. I traded him 150 poes for the Tunic of the Depths, hoping there would be more to give me a full outfit elsewhere in the caverns. I also encountered my first Frox, my first non-Little Frox Frox, saw he was bigger than a hinox, and promptly ran away from him. I found three knights on one wide, tall mound, holding their weapons out to each other. I wondered who they were.

Link standing on the huge Bargainer Statue's plate. It says, 'You who stand before me...' Link posing cutely in the dark, elegant Tunic of the Depths Link in the darkness with the three knights The three knights floating in the dark
Two grand poes at the gate to the mine

The last thing I found was the entrance to the Central Mining Facility. I was intimidated by its size, by the two grand poes lingering at its gate, and by the mischevious, knowing smile my partner had seeing I'd found it. It was 3 AM by then, so I saved, resolving to tackle it tomorrow.

May 16, 2023

I decided to explore the area around the mining facility a little before really approaching it, just to get a sense of where I was before anything happened. There were multiple statues here, but I couldn't figure out who they were depicting. It was a female figure of some kind, but one of what role, exactly? Zelda, Hylia? A Gerudo?

Statue in the depths. The figure is feminine and holds a sword

The Secret Spring of Revival was melancholic, almost out of place in how relaxing it was, all warm water and serene architecture, but also populated by clusters of wandering souls. I found two large poes tucked away together in a hidden corner, so close I could imagine them holding each other, waiting for death. I feel certain now that some war waged down here, and it seems terrible that even a place of healing like this was not exempt from tragedy and violence, but it's just an echo now. It's a quiet scar, like the shadowy figures floating on funeral mounds, the silent swaths of poes flickering in the distance.

Grand Poe flickering in the depths

The mine was tonally different, with two very obvious Yiga members trying to pretend they were normal researchers and, once I'd unlocked Autobuild, a fight with Master Kohga. Again with that BOTW silliness! He says he'll fight me again at the Southwestern Abandoned Mine. (A construct told me to the follow the statues southwest to get there, and that it's under the Gerudo region, hence why I think the figures may be a Gerudo, even though there's not much to indicate this in the statue itself.) Kohga says he's serving "the Magnificent One," and I wonder if he means Calamity Ganon still, or Ganondorf proper now.

After Kohga split, I checked out the spots connected to the main mine facility by minecart tracks. One track brought me back under the building with a huge, muscular statue, and when I reached the top I was shocked to find he was a Bargainer Statue. He said he was trapped under the water behind the stone gate of the Great Plateau. Maybe he'll have a new piece of the Depths set once I help him.

Massive, muscular Bargainer Statue. His face rests at platform height several stories up

The other track led to Hylia Canyon Mine. Nothing too exciting hidden there, but I did hear a roaring in the distance I couldn't locate.

After I'd had my fill of the depths, I headed back to the surface to finally meet up with Impa. On the way, I found one of the thief Misko's treasures in North Hyrule Plain Cave. The gear itself, the climbing gear top, was underwhelming in terms of fashion, albeit helpful, but the cave's waterfalls were beautiful, and I love a good treasure hidden behind a video game waterfall. I caught Apricot, a black Appaloosa with blue eyes and a white mane between there and New Serenne Stable. The stable clerk told me my next Pony Points reward was using the Malanya bed, which apparently brings prophecies from the horse god Malanya. It was a lovely day.

Apricot, bareback, in front of New Serenne Stable. There are lines in the grass behind him, and in the distance, raised Hyrule Castle

I went up in the balloon with Impa to look at the geoglyph, the huge drawing, on the landscape -- a Zonai. I fluttered back down, found the Dragon's Tear, and saw Zelda.

Link gliding over the Zonai geoglyph

There was Rauru and a beautiful woman, Sonia. And Zelda was in the past.

Rauru and a beautiful brown-skinned woman, Zelda-like but from another time, lean over the camera

Impa directed me to the Forgotten Temple, and I was thrilled. It fascinated me in BOTW. The goddess statue had been toppled by the recent geological activity, revealing a chamber long since lost to Hyrulean memory. There was a map of the geoglyphs.

A map made of stone tablets that shows the locations of the geoglyphs

I headed toward Rito Village excited to advance things, and stumbled across memory 10. And there was Ganondorf. Matt Mercer is unfortunately not the best voice pick for him, but his design looks great -- both his normal Gerudo form and his demonic, Demise-like form.

Gerudo Ganondorf grasping something glowing in his hand Ganondorf after transforming. He looks Demise-like, with black scaly flesh and long flame-red hair. He also has horns and swirls of malice or gloom on his body, and he stands before a blood moon

What he said to Rauru interested me. "You tried to control me." And so did the anger with which Rauru reacted, even for Ganondorf hurting Sonia and threatening Hyrule. It feels like there's something more there.

Rauru glares, furious. Ganondorf says, 'You tried to control me, Rauru, and you will die knowing that you failed!'

I wonder if the fallen ruins there are the ones where the memory took place.

'd left Apricot at Serenne, so I caught and rode a wild horse around, looking for the Skyview Tower and the second memory, wind and snow whipping around, me feeling very grateful I found her. I wondered if I could keep her, but she ended up wandering off, probably back to her herd. Just as well. I put a roof over some lonely statues.

I found the second memory, from right after Zelda wakes up in the past. I am struck by Sonia's kindness with Zelda, and how they have the same eyes. I hope she's okay after that last memory I saw.

Zelda, as Sonia says 'I can feel your [Rauru's] light power within her. As well as my time power.' Sonia smiling kindly, as she says 'Additionally, I sense that we share a blood connection as well Sonia gently taking Zelda's hands. 'We'll tell everyone you're... a distant relative of ours.'

May 17, 2023

Didn't play much today, since my best friend is in town. Before bed I mapped Hebra, explored a couple caves, and stopped at the Rito encampment north of Rito Village. Tomorrow I hope to explore Rito Village and learn more about what's going on here.

May 18, 2023

Another short play session today. I flew over to what was supposed to be the bridge into Rito Village, the one on the big canyon's western side, but was greeted with the wrecked remains of the bridge and a sign: "Wingless visitors, cross at your own peril."

The old Rito Stable at the foot of the bridge, now the base of operations for Lucky Clover Gazette, retains some of its old staff, who very pointedly told me that there are lots of pinecones around lately and to never ever throw one in the fire because they'll kick up a whirlwind big enough to blow something over the canyon to Rito, their insistence comical in how clearly I am meant to defy their advice. I made it over no problem.

It was pretty late in-game when I got there, around 11 PM, and the thick snow was absolutely glowing under the full moon. It was beautiful, but the village was also haunting its emptiness, and the icy, mournful, sometimes ominous rearrangement of the Rito Village theme only solidified the atmosphere. I thought about how weirdly cyclical it is that the Rito are being affected by extreme cold weather here, much like the Zoras they descended from were in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess (though this parallel is sort of diminished by Zoras also existing in TOTK's Hyrule).

I spoke to Teba, and decided to do some side adventures before I went after Tulin to advance the main quest. Traysi at the Lucky Clover offered me some very tempting froggy armor in exchange for investigating Zelda sightings, as if I need even more incentive to go sidequesting, especially pretty story-relevant sidequesting, so I decided to get a jump on them by going back to the stables I'd already been to. Penn, my Rito partner in post-apocalyptic journalism, was talking to small birds at both.

Penn doing reporter work with small birds

The first stable he relayed to me a rumor that the princess had been spotted riding a "mysterious beast," "a mountain of a beast [...] with huge, brutal tusks." Some followup task was in an area I'm not ready to head to yet, so that one is on hold.

However, the quest to return farming tools Zelda had borrowed and never returned I jumped on right away. And it was fun! But beyond that, it felt like lovely characterization to find out that, before the Upheaval, Zelda had taken the time to help someone build a beautiful garden, even with her duties as de facto leader of Hyrule.

Log of dialogue. Izra says, 'That's right - some farm tools from our stable. I want them back!' Magda responds, 'Oh, well. That's my fault. I have them. This area is home to Princess Zelda's plant sanctuary. She asked me to take care of this special place with her. She loved these plants, and spent a lot of time here, making sure the garden beds were happy homes for them. We meant to return the tools after we finished our work here. But the princess - well, they say she went missing. And all our hard work was ruined when... oh these darn ruins crashed down! It's been really awful.' Penn says, 'Sounds just like our princess to find time to work on a garden alongside folks while restoring Hyrule.'

Anyway, I returned to Hebra to track down Tulin. Once I helped get him his bow back, he told me he saw Zelda being attacked before she "zoomed up above that cloud." I'll head to Hebra Peak tomorrow to investigate.

Week Two

May 19, 2023

I climbed Hebra Peak with Tulin and started the trek up Rising Island Chain. It took quite a while, circling the mountain's peak while rising higher and higher, gliding and gusting from block of pristine ruin to block of cracked ruin, then bouncing from ancient boats' trampoline sails to ruins, then boats to boats, but it didn't go long enough to drag. Looking up and realizing there was a huge boat in the storm cloud above us, its shape illuminated by lightning crackles, and knowing that the Stormwind Ark of legend hung over us before I even saw it was exciting.

Rising Island Chain in the distance Ruins in the foggy sky Link and Tulin gliding over some ruins with a frozen pond and a shrine Huge ship outlined in the clouds

Nearing the top of the storm where there were only boats and no ruins, I trampolined on a ship's sail, then another, and another, then suddenly burst up through the clouds into the clear dawn sky, and the anxious piano I hadn't realized had been escalating gave out to quiet, like a breath let out. And then I dove into the storm cloud and over the ark.

The wind temple, a huge, ancient boat in the sky Link diving over the temple

What was that flash of Zelda we saw on the top deck? Past or present? A sign or an actual sighting? I'm not sure I'll get answers yet, but I'm thinking about it.

What appears to be Zelda standing a ways away on the deck of the ship. Tulin notices her, and says, 'Huh?'

The temple -- and the game classifies it as a wind temple, so perhaps Tulin is a sage? -- is beautifully detailed. I love its clear Rito motifs and it being tied up in a Rito-specific legend. At the same time, it strikes me as very City in the Sky, and I'm curious to see if anything comes of that. The music is really beautiful and lonely, and I keep thinking I'm catching pieces of Fi's theme.

I found two of the locks, then finally gave in and went to bed.

Oh, and a note before I forget: I found another blessing shrine, this one also from Rauru. Not sure if this rules out blessing from other sages.

May 20, 2023

Ohhh boy, the Wind Temple boss fight. I was so excited to see the name Colgera appear on screen -- a clear callback to Molgera, the boss of Wind Waker's wind temple! And the Molgera motif in the theme, that iconic dancing flute, followed by the triumphant Dragon Roost/Rito Village motif, gave me chills.

Insectoid flying boss, Scourge of the Wind Temple, Colgera

As you might guess by the lack of the "mol-" prefix that usually means "sand worm" in the Zelda universe (Molgera, Molduga, Moldorm), Colgera is not a Molgera-type creature, but he's still cool as hell. I think a flying bug is perfect for the temple. Having non-eye weak points is always a fun change, and with the way Tulin shouts at you ("Cmon! Goooooo!") while you dive to shatter his crystalline weak points and the way Link tumbles through the air haphazardly after, it feels really exciting and high stakes.

The first thing I have in my notes after the fight is just "oh shit the cutscene." This is where we met the former sage whose voice has been guiding us. He told us about the Imprisoning War, which involved our Zelda(!), the sage of time(!!), and fighting in the battle against the Demon King (noting this specific name for Ganondorf in case it's important). After Rauru sacrificed himself to seal the Demon King, Zelda again reached out to the Rito hoping to secure future help. Some interesting ideas here about this all being cyclical, inevitable, woven across time. The sage also mentioned that this took place at the beginning of Hyrule's existence, which runs counter to the established timeline -- Rito did not exist at Hyrule's founding, and the Imprisoning War as we know it occurred after OOT's theoretical bad ending. I'm not concerned or critical of this, really, since I don't have all the details, the "Imprisoning War" here could actually be referencing the war before Skyward Sword, it could be an alternate timeline, etc, etc, but I do find it worth noting for later.

Tulin stands before the tear Tulin reaches out to touch the tear Tulin and Link stand in a misty zen-garden like realm before a helmeted Rito. Tulin says, 'It's you... you're the one who's been guiding us?' Zonai-helmeted Rito. He says 'I proudly served Hyrule's first king. I was a Rito warrior and a sage with control of the wind.' Group of warriors including Rauru and Zelda. The sage says, 'To help in the fight, Rauru entrusted us with amazing artifacts.' Zelda stands before the Rito warrior. His narration reads, 'The rest of us survived that climactic battle, and I would soon receive a visitor with a request that would define the future of the Rito.'

The sage passed his responsibility of defending Hyrule and helping defeat the Demon King on to Tulin, who, to my relief, was thrilled and honored. I was worried he would struggle with it a little. It feels like a lot to put on a kid, yknow? Awakening as a sage usually gives people clarity and determination, though, and he was pretty excited and stubborn about protecting his people already, so this doesn't seem odd.

Tulin looking excited. He says, 'I can't believe my ancestor gave me such an important mission - and it involves fighting alongside you to save the world!' Link and Tulin clasp hands

I was treated to a joyful rendition of the Rito Village theme, and also a lovely scene where Teba passes his bow on to Tulin to symbolize his belief in his son, as well as his son's coming of age. It's cool seeing Teba so proud.

Teba hands Tulin his bow Main Quests, Tulin of Rito Village COMPLETE

I headed back to Kakariko for a bit to cure Lasli's grandmother, who's been suffering from gloom poisoning, since I finally got together all the ingredients I needed. While I was there I saw those old geezers that had been feuding before weeding together, one man's carrot patch the first day, then the other's pumpkin patch the next.

After that, back to Lookout Landing. I met a Goron, spoke to Wortsworth about translating ancient Hyrulean once he got back to Kakariko, and checked out the newly-revealed hidden passage in the emergency shelter.

The statue that swaps hearts and stamina containers was in a little cell down there. I don't use this feature since I don't see a need for it (and I also feel weird about Link making deals with such a sketchy character?), but I'm glad I found him if only for his dialogue. I find it really funny that Hylia is so sick of his sorry ass that after BOTW she moved him out of Hateno's outskirts (where birds pooped on him and no one would talk to him), submerged him in a pond, decided that wasn't enough, and then put him in a cell (he can't move!!!) underground. I also love that when he asks if Link can hear him, you can select "no."

The exchange statue. He says, 'I'm sure we can reach a beneficial arrangement. I have dealt only with fish for too long. And fish make terrible deals.'

After talking to him, I headed as far into the deep, winding cavern as I could, saw my first stalmoblin, fought the stalnox, and went to bed.

May 21, 2023

I kept going into the cavern and eventually realized, fighting an electric like, that it was the same hidden passageway I'd accessed way early from the castle's observation deck. I explored every nook before I was just in the castle proper, carefully marking my map to make sure I didn't miss anything, and left with the full soldier's armor set. The set minus the hat (which I think is ugly) became my favorite Link look in Age of Calamity, and it's pretty sturdy, so I was pretty happy about this.

Link smiling in his armor at a stable.

After that I headed over to Wortsworth in Kakariko, who gave me a challenging middle English translation of the tablet that had fallen in Lookout Landing. Here's the Old or Middle English on it, and my best approximation as a native (modern) English speaker, second-language (modern high) German speaker, and someone able to Google/use Wiktionary, since I couldn't really find a good translation tool:

Original Text

My Interpretation

Ones held y honore als hochmayde to kyng Rauru ond quen Sonia, thaerafter to his suster ond to princesse Zelda.

Once I honorably held [a position as] high maid to King Rauru and Queen Sonia, and thereafter to his sister and to Princess Zelda.

Her on thaes grete stan ond twelf mo withalle make y endite min time with the roial familie.

Here on this great stone and together with the twelve others I will write of my time with the royal family.

So michte heore remembraunce preserven for the sake of hem on whom oure hope raeste.

So might here rememberance be preserved for the sake of them on whom our hope rests.

(Again, I am certainly no expert. This is just what I think it might say.)

What's clear is that it references King Rauru and Queen Sonia, but also Princess Zelda, who the researcher was surprised to hear -- something about there not being someone in the record by that name. (So probably our time-traveling Zelda.)

Also, there are 12 more tablets to translate, including the one I found before. I immediately traveled back to the one I'd found before but could not translate. It gave us more info Rauru's sister, Mineru who I haven't seen or heard about in the ancient era yet. She was working tirelessly on preserving the self by possessing a construct. I wonder what exactly came of that.

Original Text

My Interpretation

Queynte Mineru, the kynges elder suster, falles so dep in hir bokes swich that she oft foryetes to eten.

[Intelligent, sophisticated, etc.] Mineru, the king's elder sister, falls so deep in her books such that she often forgets to eat.

In min wieried wei don y what much y con, but y fer haven that it ben litel avail.

In my worried[?] way I do what much I can, but [unclear, probably something like "even though I try"] it's been little avail [as in "to no avail"].

Of late treteth she of 'constructes,' thinges did she make with hir hondes as vessel for spirit whan bodi-lich failen.

Of late she speaks[?] of [or possibly "treads," as in to cover in her research?] 'constructs,' things she made with her hands as vessels for spirits when the body fails.

So, seyde she, micht she liven longe, in spiret yhused within this 'construct.'

So, she said, she might live long, in spirit housed[?] within this 'construct.'

Though Mineru ne semes to holden ani deceyte... Bi my feith, y kan nat als trouthe thes wordes bileven.

Though Mineru does not seem to hold any deceit [does not seem to be deceiving me]... By my faith, I cannot believe these words as truth.

After that, I aimed vaguely for Hateno and ended up exploring West Necluda sky islands. It took my silly ass 30 minutes to fly back and forth between two islands to get a sky crystal for a shrine quest, and somewhere in there was a Looney Tunes moment where my plane started moving, we went over the edge of the sky island, and the plane immediately dove and plummeted while I kept going for a minute after getting flung by its tipping tail.

After that, I headed back to the surface and came to Dueling Peaks Stable. I did one of those cork-unplugging Korok puzzles by attaching a rocket to one end and laughed so hard at the pop I had to pause. I also had a good laugh at this Triumph Forks moment:

A traveler says, 'Rumor has it that deep in a forest somewhere, there's a legendary pumpkin called the Master Gourd.'

I got some more info there, too. Someone said something about the Dueling Peaks statues(?) that I don't remember anything about if they were in BOTW. The Malanya bed I unlocked also revealed that Malanya is near a stable in Akkala, northeast Hyrule. Making notes of these for later.

Leaving the stable, I crossed the battlefield where Link fell in BOTW that was once littered with huge guardian corpses. They're gone now. I've seen people estimating the amount of time that's passed between BOTW and TOTK, anywhere from the 2 year minimum to 5/6 years (the real-world release gap), based on the growth of child NPCs, but I think we should also be considering how many Calamity ruins have been cleared away since. Certainly Hylians have begun to organize quickly since Zelda's return, but it takes time to do something like this. I helped some fighters clear out the Fort Hateno monsters, and went on my way.

Side Adventures: Bring Peace to Necluda! COMPLETE

I made it to the newly mushroomified Hateno and quickly went to Link's house. I realized pretty quickly that Zelda lives there now. (There's even a cute photo of the woman she gardened with!) It made me happy to see that she has a safe and comfortable place to rest after the trauma of the Calamity. What I loved even more was her well behind the house. I love the kids' drawings. I love the way she keeps Link's old hair tie with her in her most private place. I love the diary entry talking about how much she appreciates Link and wants to get him a new tunic to show it. I love that there are hot-footed frogs, the kind she got excited about and tried to get Link to eat, hopping around down there. I just love it all.

Link posing in a silly way in front of Hateno Zelda's desk, with kids' drawings on her board over her open diary Screenshot taken in Zelda's Well while collecting 'Well-Worn Hair Band.' The popup text reads, 'An old, worn, simple hair band. Its color has long faded, but it still has some life left in it. Wearing it in your hair makes you sentimental about times past.' Zelda's diary. This page reads, 'No matter where I go to offer aid, Link remains at my side - a kindness that has taken a visible toll on his clothing.'

Does Link live there? I'm not sure. I think with their closeness and Link's kindness and unique understanding of how she must feel coming back to a world that does not know her, Link giving Zelda the house and Zelda living with Link both make sense. (There's only one bed, but even if you can't imagine them sharing it, there may be another tucked away.) I certainly don't think Zelda "took" Link's house -- she seems to treat him as a trusted equal in the opening, and she seems very down-to-earth these days based on how closely she works with the people of a Hyrule. And after all, Link has stuck with her even after Calamity Ganon's defeat.

I met Cece, and an election is on between her and Reede. I don't really want Cece to win, since Reede seems more qualified and a little more focused on the long-term, but frankly, I want her cool hat, and I know I can't get it without handing out her voter-bribing mushrooms. We'll see.

May 22, 2023

I dyed the traveler's hood pink at the Hateno dye shop. I used to have it this way in BOTW, and it was a favorite, so I thought it would be fun and cute to have it again.

Election quests time. I helped a lady invent some cheese (and now she's in love with me?). I passed the cheese on to the mayor to help with his campaign, and then snuck around for his wife to find out he's developing a new Cece-inspired pumpkin to get the young people excited about produce again. Reede's wife suggested that they're both stubborn, but would be a good team, and I was just thinking that if I did all these quest they'd maybe work together when I caught Cece secretly, voraciously devouring vegetables, which she secretly loves after all. (Another thing that made me laugh out loud.) I felt more confident that the quest would all work out for the village even if I helped Cece.

NPC Koyin surrounded by cheese. She says, 'Ta-da! The Hateno Cheese Shop is complete! What do you think?!' Cece hunched over a carrot in a dim, small room. Her dialogue box says 'crunch munch cronch'

I stopped by the new Hateno school. Zelda built it! I noticed the drawing a kid made of Zelda, and found a note hoping she would be careful on her expedition under the castle:

I understand you'll be heading soon to Hyrule Castle to investigate the reports of strange phenomena there.

I trust you'll be fine with Link at your side. Nevertheless, I can't shake this strange tightness in my chest.

It's similar to what I felt right before the Calamity, come to think of it.

The children know you as Ms. Zelda, their beloved teacher and mentor.

But I know Princess Zelda's duties are wider-ranging than that. Take care, Princess, and return to us soon.

It's clear she's cared for here, part of the community.

A wall of children's drawings, including kids holding hands and giving flowers to Zelda

After that, I found a cave all the way through Walnot Mountain, and found myself southeast of Mount Lanayru. I'll head up there tomorrow.

May 23, 2023

I headed towards the tower on Mount Lanayru and encountered some more of those gloom hands. I was really dedicated to actually beating them this time, and my my partner gave me some tips: find a perch out of their reach and shoot them with bomb arrows. It took a while, but I got it.

Imagine my shock when the words "Phantom Ganon" appeared on screen under a health bar and a gloom mummy Ganon materialized.

Gloom mummy Ganondorf in a puddle of gloom, looking up at the camera

(My wife had just stepped out for a moment, and was sad to have missed my live reaction. I guess she'd been waiting to see my reaction since she ran into him earlier than me.)

I fought him over and over, and I'm not sure if I actually beat him or not, but he eventually evaporated and dropped some dark clumps and a bow.

After that I kept on running around with no particular goal for a while. The Mount Lanayru goddess statue asked me if the "mother" goddess statue in the Forgotten Temple had fallen, and I made a mental note to bring her Naydra's claw whenever I got one. I snowboarded directly off a sky island and down a mountainside. I climbed up to the broken heart pond above Hateno and marked a million caves the satori lit up for me.

Cherry blossom tree over the broken heart pond

Eventually I found myself traveling along Hyrule's southeast coast, where I came across a shipwreck. A message in a bottle pled for me to help its trapped author, and to follow the trail of brightbloom seeds they'd released into a current running through the cave they were trapped in. I built a hasty vessel with the beach debris, followed the seeds for a while, then saw in the distance the big island I'd seen a cave marker on. Assuming this was where I was meant to go, I abandoned the glowing seeds and steamed ahead.

Speeding toward an island on a basic vessel

Eventide Island! I don't think I ever actually beat the trial here in BOTW, but I always thought it was cool. I was surprised to see a chasm on the beach, and hear from a Hylian camped nearby that this was apparently the pirates' hideout. I'd deal with that later, I thought, after I found the trapped fisherman.

I found the cave -- a secret harbor, actually -- that I'd marked near the back of the island and immediately thought it looked like one of the pirates' hiding places. The dock and decorations and explosive barrels all looked the part, and there was no sign of the guy, so I crept around waiting for an ambush, but it never came. This cave entrance wasn't blocked, so maybe this was the wrong cave? There was no sign of brightbloom seeds outside the cave's mouth, none that I could see from the coastline where I'd landed. I decided I'd clear out the pirate monsters and that'd give me a chance to look around.

After I cleared out each monster camp, the pirate ship came in to harbor. I went in to fight, and cleared them out in no time. Still no fisherman. I gave up for now.

I headed back to Hateno Village, and finally found the last guy to give Cece's mushroom bribe to. After that it was time for the election. Cece's sister Sophie screaming and interrupting the whole thing to reveal her sister's late-night vegetable habit made me laugh, and the happy conclusion -- Reede staying mayor, Cece working with him, both aiming to make Hateno a better place for everyone, not just to their own tastes -- was very nice. And, of course, I got the special hat Cece designed.

Sophie pointing angrily at her sister. She says, 'I know for a fact you hide in the silo at night to snack on vegetables!' Link in the stylish, decadent, frilly mushroom hat, eyes obscured by long, blunt pink bangs

Yes, after this I did go back to the site of the shipwreck and actually follow the brightbloom seeds more closely, and yes, I do feel stupid about it, thanks. The fisherman was actually all the way around the peninsula and up by Mapla Point.

I did have a lot of fun at Eventide, though, so it was worth the detour. And it was useful, too -- from there, I'd spotted a geoglyph on the swirling southern peninsula that ends at Soka Point. I started lazily south along the coastline from Mapla, stopping in at every cave I'd marked and taking a long detour to catch and stable the giant horse I found on a random beach, then another long detour to find a tower. At some point, I used my amiibo for the day and got the Mirror of Twilight fabric for my paraglider. I saved for the night before reaching the geoglyph. All in all, a fun day!

Beach sunset photo Paraglider with new Mirror of Twilight fabric pattern

May 24, 2023

It was (seemingly perpetually) raining outside the tower, and thorns blocked the entrance, so I left it be when I saved last night. Today I got to work and built a shoddy roof across it with wooden boards, then launched myself up into the sky. I caught a passing shooting star as it shimmered past me.

Falling alongside a star Capturing the star

Back on the ground I ran into more refugees from Lurelin Village and a sign warning me that the village was closed. Will the village be ok now that I've defeated the pirates at their stronghold? Probably not, since much later on the mountain I encountered a quest related to it. I'll come back and help later.

When I reached the geoglyph, its wobbly lines on the sand almost looked like the sunset was reaching the surface through water. It was like it was under the sea.

Shimmering sunset beach with geoglyph lines

The memory here felt sort of suited to that, bad things happening too far away to do anything about. This was in part because I've seen the memory right after, seen Ganondorf transform and seen collapsed Sonia unresponsive to Zelda's pleas. Ganondorf's deranged, evil smile stood out to me. I feel very sure now that, despite fan hopes, this Ganondorf has no interest in being good, at least at this point.

Ganondorf smiles evilly as Zelda cries out for Sonia

After that, I headed back to Eventide to check out the things I'd missed. Nothing crazy at the lagoon. I ran into some minigame researchers and immediately fucked up at their flying test, then only got 5 rupees back for the 20 I'd paid when I did really well, and decided this minigame wasn't fun or fair.

I dropped down into the beach chasm, the depths around me full of peacock-feather trees. It's an isolated area, cut off from the rest of the depths the way Eventide is cut off from Hyrule. My Mirror of Twilight paraglider glowed down there.

Mirror of Twilight paraglider glowing with a bright, pale rainbow light in the gloom and darkness

There was a Zonai coliseum, and it made me wrinkle my nose a little. Its completeness makes it feel more modern than the ruined Hyrulean ones, and it's got live blins trapped there under the stands for competitors to fight instead of just the free-roaming cranky lynels that make the ruins their battlegrounds, so the barbaric implications really stood out to me for a moment. I wondered about Zonai culture, since we've only really met Rauru, seemingly a gentle enough man, but the historical record knows the Zonai to be "barbarians."

Ultimately, I know the coliseum is probably here just for gameplay purposes, not lore implications, and I wanted the treasure, so I took on the challenge anyway. And the treasure was very cool: Midna's helmet, complete with gloom resistance.

Link obtaining Midna's helmet. The description says, 'A helmet much like the one Midna wore when she fought alongside the Hero of Twilight.'

I also discovered a weird stone tower with the zen sand ripples at the base, and accidentally climbed all the way up to the surface testing Ascend on it. Maybe this is how Zonai returned to the surface after mining (or in this case, bloodsport spectating)?

I returned to Hyrule's mainland to dip back into the depths for a while. Near the Abandoned Lurelin Mine I found the Ancient Observation Deck, bursting with poes, and with a beautiful heart stone island. I fought Flux Construct III and died multiple times before my wife told me I could use Ultrahand on him. I followed the flooded cave that followed the swirling peninsula's shape all the way to its end and got some Wind Waker gear for my trouble.

Clock-like strucuture at the Lurelin Mine Link descending onto an observation deck on the water in the depths Multi-level stone observation deck structure with a perfectly heart-shaped island in the water in front of it Poes on the purple grass of the soft heart island Link, in Midna's helmet and the gloom tunic, posing in the purple grass in front of the colorful poes

Finally, I returned to the surface, and tried to ride the horse I'd left on the mountain down to a stable. I (mistakenly) believed I needed to return him to a stable to check him out of one later, and he kept getting stuck, so I was terribly lost for what felt like forever trying to ride Apricot off the damn mountain so I could board him. It was the only actually frustrating moment (hour) I've had so far with the game. It was also my own fault.

I finally pulled up to Lakeside Stable, ready to go to bed. But before I did, new glowing little creatures across the river -- dondons! -- caught my eye. I'll say hello to them tomorrow.

Mammals with luminous-stone horns and armadillo-like plating. An NPC explains, 'Those are a species of animal that few have ever seen called Dondons. They were discovered in this area'

May 25, 2023

The dondons are funny little creatures that Zelda discovered herself, and I guess there's only five of them out there, according to the girl tending them. They're very friendly -- "When the princess came to research [them], they used to go tromping around after her wherever she went," which turned out to be the source of rumors about Zelda riding some fearsome beast came from. They eat luminous stones and turn them into gems!

I headed out. On my way through the area I spotted an electric gleeok in the distance, perched like a hawk. I gave him a wide berth -- electric enemies are particularly challenging to me because they make Link drop things and they don't appear to have any elemental weaknesses, so it seemed like a bad kind to start with.

In Faron I found the Zonai Ruins, capital R, and the Spring of Courage, saw a huge carved dragon with a lightning rod for a horn, chased a blupee to a hidden excavation site. There's still so little we understand about these Zonai, yknow? The ones that actually lived normal lives on the surface, presumably before Rauru and Sonia married, when they were mysterious barbarians. I don't feel like I know much about them, even after all this.

Huge dragon mouth structure housing the Spring of Courage, seen from higher ground Link stands before the Spring of Courage Zonai ruins surrounded by lush jungle Lightning strikes the Zonai dragon's horn Zonai ruins inside a hidden excavation site

I came to the Bridge of Hylia and met Pikango, the painter, there. Nice to see him again! The fire gleeok there finally drew my curiosity. He repeatedly threw me off the bridge and I repeatedly narrowly clambered back up. At one point I died because I'd accidentally whistled and needed to get Apricot out of the line of fire. It was very cool to have a proper knight v. dragon fight, very high fantasy.

I could dodge his nuke-like giant fireballs by swooping clumsily under the bridge, but I couldn't finish him off, so I moved on. Same with the whirlpool cave in the lake below. I had the geoglyph in my sights.

Red-hot gleeok standing on bridge under a dark, stormy sky, with geoglyph in the distance

The cutscene...!! I was shocked to see Sonia's grave. I thought she would make it. I suppose I just wanted her to make it. Zelda reveals the future to Rauru here, telling him that the Demon King would not die, but that Rauru would, sacrificing himself to seal Ganondorf away. It occurred to me that maybe Rauru only did this in the past, that all these events only came out the way they did so long ago, because Zelda came back in time. This would mean Zelda inspired the same idea that she witnessed thousands of years later, and that it has no true source -- a Song of Storms kind of deal.

Rauru stands before Sonia's grave, marked by a stone and a sundelion

Rauru points out that the future Link and Zelda are from, the one where Ganondorf lives on, "was a future where you never appeared in this world. And you are here now," and she has certainly been doing things. Something else Rauru said really stood out to me:

It was my hubris that set us on this path.

I must atone for my error in judgement.

It feels like he's talking about both the beginning and the end of all this. All his talk about Link being the last line of defense, should all else fail, has a similar ring to it, too.

The gist of all this nonsense rambling is that I'm starting to wonder, can we maybe finally stop the cycle? Can we go back to the beginning from the end?

Week Three

May 26, 2023

First thing I did today was hop into the Hylia Island Chasm. It was isolated down there, the only way forward narrowing into a small tunnel. One poe blocked the way to the final area of the cave, a big group of poes behind it, as if they were hiding there. The area was bathed in the red glow of the gloom.

After that I went to the Great Plateau. I love all the Temple of Time ruins here. They're not too changed from BOTW, but I took my time exploring them anyway.

Link stands before the Temple of Time ruins Link stands before goddess statue inside the temple Link hangs off the temple's point, looking at some Korok pixie dust there beside him More ruins

I spotted a blupee and chased it to the old Shrine of Resurrection. Somehow the events of BOTW all feel so long ago now, both to me as a real life person and within the world of TOTK. The shrine is completely bare inside now, just a normal cave (seriously, where did all the Sheikah tech go?) from the past. It's directly above the Secret Spring of Revival, I noticed.

Blupee on the cliff in front of the shrine

There was a little Yiga hideout down under it, accessible through a hole in the way back of the cave, which would've felt worse if the Yiga had any influence in Hyrule anymore. It seems like they can't do much harm in the Depths, as much as they want to, and I've seen far more Yiga posing blatantly and dorkily as travelers on the Great Plateau than anywhere else, but still not enough to do anything.

While I was hiking around in the snowy parts of the plateau, I found some kind of marker on Mount Hylia. I don't know who would've put it there, but I get the feeling it's King Rhoam's grave.

Royal claymore standing in the snow before a rock monument

I left (not having been able to figure out the Bargainer Statue quest) and found my way to Outskirts Stable. Some notes:

I also copied down this map of Hyrule's cherry blossom trees:

Stable bulletin board with cherry blossom trees marked on a map in crayon

I encountered another memory today, the one where Ganondorf is leading a huge molduga attack against Hyrule. It was a little odd seeing him lead the Gerudo in a normal military fashion rather than through magic. (I noticed all his Gerudo had pointed ears, which is odd, but it's probably just model recycling.)

Ganondorf glaring ahead Rauru stands in front of Zelda and Sonia, making a triangle with his hands as his secret stone lights up

Zelda's power was so strong in the memory, even stronger than Sonia's, and I'm not sure what that means. I also wonder how long she's been here in the past that she starts to wear the regalia and makeup of the time rather than just wearing the normal clothes appropriate to the time. Seemingly she's taken her place in the ancient royal family.

Sonia using her power Zelda using her power. Her aura is bigger and she seems surprised and uncertain

May 27, 2023

I went to Woodland Stable today and helped awaken the Great Fairy Tera. She said that Zelda had come to her:

Now that I'm outside, I see that the world is not at all how Princess Zelda described it to me.

She warned me that an awful gloom was spreading over the land, and that the world would soon be lost to monsters.

I hid myself away.

But now that I look back on it, while Princess Zelda was speaking to me, I had the feeling something wasn't right.

In the deep dark of that night, I couldn't see her face clearly. Maybe it was someone else entirely...

I also met Koltin, Kilton's satori- and bubbel gem-obsessed younger brother, nearby. Something about his character writing feels mean-spirited to me, sort of in the same way Tingle's desire to be a fairy in Majora's Mask is written pretty meanly. There are also certainly some parallels to be drawn between transmisogynistic "man in a dress" gags and the "ugly man wanting to or claiming to somehow be something as feminine and beautiful as a fairy" joke. Koltin wanting to transform into a satori is similar to this. On its face this desire is less overtly transgender because satori are less gendered beings, but his insistence on "transforming," the ridiculousness of his quest, his brother's disapproval, and the current swell of transphobic caricatures in public discourse about trans people more than makes up for it. On top of that, Koltin's exclamations are both annoying and dreadfully reminescent of ableist depictions of autistic people having meltdowns (the hateful "autistic screeching" meme). I don't know how much of this is intentional, but I don't like any of it, to say the least.

A while after I was lured by trees with branches bursting with apples only to realize I'd walked into an orchard of evermeans, I found another geoglyph. In this memory, I met Rauru's Zonai sister, Mineru. Mineru doesn't know how to help Zelda return to her time period. However, she hints at something more drastic:

There are stories about the secret stones and a forbidden act called draconification.

"To swallow a secret stone is to become an immortal dragon... one blessed with eternal life." [...]

[But] "To become an immortal dragon is to lose oneself."

Thinking on this, I made my way to Bedrock Bistro. I'd already heard about the situation here: the Gorons are addicted to marbled rock roast, and as a result are acting strangely and aggressively. The other regions are dealing with some form of natural disaster from what I can tell, but the Gorons are essentially dealing with a crack epidemic. When I ventured into the caves near the bistro to find some rock roast, I realized the rock it was mined from was familiar: I'd spotted one of the same red, gently-glowing rocks in the depths.

Metal gate framing the glowing bistro

When I arrived in Goron City, things were a mess. All the young adult Gorons – kids and elders don't have strong enough teeth to eat the marbled rock roast – were agitated, and only cared about the rock roast. Yunobo himself looked much flashier, and he was cruel – not the sweet kid from BOTW. He runs the show here, but maybe not as much as he thinks. "I've gotta go get more marbled rock roast," he said before he left for YunoboCo HQ. "Can't afford to keep her waiting."

Yunobo sneers at the camera, wearing a gaudy gold mask Dialogue. Yunobo: What could YOU want? Well if it ain't Link. You're so tiny, I barely even noticed ya. Bludo: What's the big idea? Talkin' like that to our esteemed guest! Yunobo: Bludo. Or should I say 'boss'? You really don't know your place, do ya? Slergo! Tell me, who runs Goron City these days? Slergo: YunoboCo... Yunobo: And, Offrak! Who's in charge of YunoboCo? Offrak: You are, President Yunobo... Yunobo stands before upset-looking Gorons Bludo, Slergo and Offrak. He says, 'I've gotta go get more marbled rock roast. Can't afford to keep her waiting.' Goron City at night. Gorons with glowing red eyes sit around a hearth where a massive pile of marbled rock roast cooks

I checked out Goron City a bit before tailing him. Of particular interest to me was Gorondia, a mysterious city underground, "the legendary place where the Gorons of old used to live." A Goron diary describing Yunobo's efforts to make Goron City a better place following the events of BOTW and how his business was "all about making Gorons smile" before the rock roast stirred some suspicion in my mind, and a conversation I had with the blacksmith Rohan confirmed it:

Gimme a break... That Hylian blondie had me makin' the weirdest stuff.

She said it was a simple mask, but it looked funny to me. And she had me make it with an odd material...

Yunobo's odd behavior has something to do with not just the rock roast, but with the gaudy mask he's been wearing, and it sounds like Zelda, or someone posing as Zelda, is behind it.

I also noticed veins of gloom coming up through cracks in the stone in the area surrounding YunoboCo HQ, where the marbled rock roast is presumably being mined. There must be gloom in the damn things.

There was one other thing that really stood out to me. The non-plot important BOTW/TOTK Gorons have iffy designs, but seeing the dark-skinned baby Goron just about knocked me flat. It feels particularly racist, evoking blackface and anti-Black caricatures like the picaninny. I'm not keen on having him plastered on my page, but you can view the screenshot I took to illustrate this here.

Anyway, I found the cave Yunobo had run off to. His little lackeys Slergo and Offrak blocked the way, but the poor kids agreed to let me through if I'd help make Yunobo stop mining marbled rock roast.

Child Goron Slergo and Offrak looking sad as they block the mouth of a cave. Offrak says, 'If we let you pass, will you convince President Yunobo to make YunoboCo stop mining marbled rock roast?' The option highlighted says, 'I'll see what I can do.'

Once inside, I found Yunobo speaking to a figure that appeared to be Zelda. Slergo and Offrak came in after me, asking him to take off his weird mask and stop mining the roast. Yunobo became agitated. Zelda would not turn so that we could see her, but rather kept speaking to him, moving her hands as he grew upset. Eventually he exploded, and we had to fight.

Zelda, back turned to the player, speaks to Yunobo Child Gorons looking sad. One of them says, 'We want you to take off that weird mask so you can go back to the President Yunobo we know and love!' Yunobo covers his head with his hands, agitated, as the Zelda figure speaks to him, arms spread imploringly, as if she is trying to convince him of something Yunobo glares, eyes now red and mask glowing with a gloom-red accent. He says, 'Princess Zelda is right... Marbled... rock roast is good. It makes everyone... happy.'

After I broke his mask, Yunobo immediately returned to his old sweet self. The Goron kids were so happy. Yunobo insisted that he saw Zelda at Death Mountain's crater, and that she gave him the mask to wear, so we headed up. I spotted the salamander lakes on the climb.

One salamander lake from above, with striking blue-green water Both salamander lakes from above Map view of salamander lakes

At the top of the mountain, we saw Zelda walking into the crater. She did not heed Yunobo's warnings, or even acknowledge his shouts.

And there at the crater, a huge stone monster of marbled rock rose up and spouted fire. Moragia, like Volvagia, the dragon that terrorized Death Mountain in Ocarina of Time, but a being made of stone and the size of a mountain itself. The power of the gloom-infested rock here must be immense. The rocks probably fill the entire volcano, like an infection left to fester.

Link and Yunobo watch as Zelda approaches the crater Gloom steams from the earth around Zelda. Yunobo says, 'Princess Zelda, we need to talk to you! It's dangerous...' She does not face the camera. A monster's head takes shape in a huge cluster of marbled rock roast boulders Several huge monster heads shoot fire from their place in Death Mountain Crater. They are massive. Their title is on screen: Rising from the Death Mountain Crater, Moragia

The fight itself was very fun – once I figured out what to do. Frankly, it's super easy to miss the glider sitting at the crater's edge and run around having no idea what to do. But once I'd found that, it was very cool.

The monster left a huge chasm behind. I dove down into the darkness, into an area of the depths lit with the glow of molten lava, embers flickering past ancient Goron statues. The ember set I'd found some pieces of glowing red-hot. It seems that the fire temple will be here, in the lava depths.

Link floating through the depths. Streams of lava outline the shape of the rock beneath him in the darkness A hulking Goron figure in the lava-filled depths Link wearingly an ancient ritual outfit. The dragon horns on the helm glow orange and red, as do the flame patterns on the sleeves of the tunic

Ah, and I also found a new tablet today, one about a party:

Original Text

My Interpretation

So swete the song of kyng Rauru, ond so grete the beaute of his susteres daunce, that wer min eies ond eres captif.

So sweet the song of King Rauru, and so great the beauty of his sister's dance, that my eyes and ears were captive.

Ond so hende quen Sonias gasen on us alle, so felt y min here als captif fallen.

And so hende [gracious, courteous] Queen Sonia's gaze on us all, so I felt my [unclear, maybe "heart"?] fall as captive.

Seruantes lyf, tho moche laboursum, han moche jolitee as welle. Longe be the lyf of the roial familie thaere y love so.

Servants' life, though much laborsome, has much jollity [lively, cheerful activities] as well. Long be the life of the royal family that I love so.

It seems that, for a time, the kingdom of Hyrule was a joyful place.

Sky island in the setting sun

May 28, 2023

Something cute I noticed when playing today was that the ember set gives Link red nail polish. Another is that, when you warp to leave the depths, Yunobo says, "Uh, Link, are you going somewhere...?" and it seems kind of awkward to leave him behind to wait for you.

Anyway, on to the exciting part: the fire temple, Gorondia!

Carved stone building with the title, 'Fire Temple, Lost Gorondia Rediscovered'

I wish that this temple gave me more from a lore perspective. I wonder why they left, but I think leaving that open is fine. I do wish it was more city-like, gave more of an indication of how these Gorons once lived. The outside looks promising, but inside is pretty barebones -- just vague stonework.

The dungeon itself was also not very intuitive to navigate. I often just felt confused and a little annoyed rather than challenged. I also spent 40 minutes building and carefully positioning and rebuilding a stone bridge so that I could unblock a vital area with Yunobo's charge because it required a long structure – one too bulky and weighty to move easily, and also incredibly easy to lose in the chasm below in an instant. Autobuild was also not much help here.

My eventually-complete stone bridge, sitting securely

At least the boss was fun. Not much to say about it, but I love me a Gohma, and the fight was satisfying. Zelda appeared to summon this one, too.

A rocky insect monster, Scourge of the Fire Temple, Marbled Gohma Link and Yunobo stand before the glowing tear Yunobo poses with his magical doppelganger heroically Yunobo and Link fist-bump, Link's hand miniscule in comparison to Yunobo's hulking Goron fist

Not too much new from the sage's infodump, either, though Zelda was explicitly named as the Sage of Time (which I missed, if the Rito sage also used the title).

After I left Goron City, I found the Master Sword geoglyph -- the memory that shows the other half of Zelda receiving the Master Sword from Link across time. Hearing Fi's alert noise, and then Fi's leitmotif, made me shout. Did she organize this? Link and Zelda both found the orb; neither summoned it. It could've been just Zelda's tear responding to a subconscious knowledge of what she must do, or another Song of Storms type deal, some kind of cosmic inevitability. But I believe it is Fi's divine interference: "You traveled through time to find me and recover your strenght."

And what Zelda said at the end, when she's received the Master Sword at long last, flashing back to what Rauru has said to her about there being a reason she's there, to what Mineru has said to her about draconification:

I know why I am here.

It's something only I can do.

We will finally stop him.

I'll be forever changed.

I know now: she is the light dragon. And perhaps we will finally, finally stop Ganondorf. For good.

Rauru presses his palm, arm glowing with power, against Ganondorf's chest in a dramatic showdown Zelda, in awe Zelda, holding the Master Sword, looking awed

May 29, 2023

I didn't play much today, but it was fun. It was a sequence of little moments: I admired the long snake-dragon with separate stone segments at the now-bright Typhlo ruins, its articulated belly stretching across the grass, wondering what happened to the fog that once surrounded this place and at the modern Hyrulean riddles carved there. I flew to a tablet sky island from the tower there, not expecting the bottom to fall out right under my feet, plummeting down directly into a chasm below, Link tumbling after. I found the Korok Forest shrouded in impenterable shadow, a different sort from before, and made a note to approach on the path from the southeast later on, the one with a chasm of its own. I spoke to an unhelpful stablehand at Highland who complained that no one liked her recommendations, which were exclusively for places that had become dangerous since the Upheaval. I learned from a more helpful person there that a giant white stallion can be found on the road to the Lake of the Horse God southeast of here, and that a voice like Zelda's has been haunting the area, "leave the... rms" echoing from Fural Plain in the northwest every night. I helped Pyper put on a special performance for a friend. I brought another Great Fairy out of hiding, and she teased Link sweetly. And then the rest of my night was spent with my wife, celebrating our seventh anniversary.

The Great Fairy smiles at Link. 'I'm only teasing you... But you get even cuter when you're blushing.'

May 30, 2023

Another short play session. The most notable thing I did today was a very Plants vs. Zombies quest where I babysit a field all night and fought stalmonsters, which unlocked Hateno's new gloom-curing crop: the Hateno sun pumpkin.

Link stands in a field of green mushroom-shaped pumpkins. The text says, 'Side Quests, Homegrown in Hateno, Complete'

I did also translate that tablet:

Original Text

My Interpretation

Sith hire founding has Hyrule swich hardshippe ysene, but that is onli smale moment of time.

Since her founding has Hyrule such hardship seen[?], but that is only [a] small moment of time.

Mineru, the kynges elder suster, seyes of this kyngdom that hit ne mot nat awaren aye be ycaccht, nat evenforth fer futur.

Mineru, the king's elder sister, says of this kingdom that it must not ever be caught ["ycaccht"="cacchen"="to catch"?] unaware ["nat awaren"="not aware"], not even for/in the future.

Princesse Zelda tells hire that this futur be wrat alredi, that a champioun bith from the skie comen.

Princess Zelda tells her that this future is written already, that a champion born from the sky is coming.

Bitwene the two, thei imaked to finden a wei this champioun in that distaunt time to helpen.

Between the two, they made to find a way to help this champion in that distant time.

Her min treuthe, sogte thei to up-reisen the Temple of Time, into the skie to warden hit onyenes ivil.

[As] her main goal [probably "troth," as in pledge, promise, oath, etc.], they sought[?] to raise up the Temple of Time, into the sky to ward it against[?] evil.

Al dyden so in fer distaunt dai, our kingdom mighte be safed.

All done so in the distant day, our kingdom might be saved/safe.

In min herte y woot y helpen mot, ond y asked of Mineru, canst yow devyse the menes to upreisen int he skie thaes stane.

In my heart I know I must help, and I asked of Mineru, can you devise the means to raise up in the sky this stone.

Min wordes iseie nat enow, but thei thaes memorie safen, of the roial familie, heigh in the skie for that future time.

My words are[?] not enough, but they save these memories, of the royal family, high in the sky for that future time.

May 31, 2023

I jumped straight down into the Lost Woods depths (which are full of the same scary-looking trees as the above-ground forest).

I was not expecting to run into gloom hands down here, but I was insistent on beating them, and then on beating Phantom Ganon. My wife kept asking me, "Are you sure you wanna fight him right now?" and I kept on insisting that I did, and was confused when nothing special happened. She didn't elaborate on what she'd meant.

Gloom hands surrounding Link in the depths

I also got the chance to get some clearer shots of Phantom Ganon than before. I find it interesting that Phantom Ganon looks just like mummified Ganondorf in this game, given that in other games he's looked quite distinct from his namesake. I also realized that I hadn't seen anyone mention the OOT-styled Phantom Ganon armor from BOTW returning in TOTK, and I wondered if it was excluded to avoid confusion.

Phantom Ganon, a red version of mummy Ganondorf

The ascenscion column I'd seen in the distance when I'd dropped down into the chasm bears some deep, gnarled vines I can only imagine are from the Great Deku Tree, and some of the glowing pea pods that grow in the Korok Woods above.

The ascension column framed by roots and glowing pods

I was greeted by a shocking scene. The dark purple haze the woods were engulfed in persisted even in the Korok Woods proper, and the Koroks were frozen in place, unable to move. The music hinted at something deeply wrong.

A korok frozen in the purple haze of the forest. He cannot speak

I quickly found the source of this wrongness: a chasm within the Great Deku Tree himself oozing gloom. I also realized very quickly why my partner had encouraged me not to waste all my items and energy fighting Phantom Ganon on the way here:

Phantom Ganon standing in the cavern inside the Great Deku Tree

Fighting him was significantly more difficult this time, and took several tries -- probably because of the tight space and the gloom everywhere, but in my head it was some kind of cosmic joke on me for having stubbornly pursued a fight in the depths before. But eventually I prevailed, and the Korok Woods were back to normal.

Koroks celebrating Link's help. 'You did it! Thank you so much, Mr. Hero!'

The Great Deku Tree showed me a memory set before the opening of the game, where Link and Zelda had returned to the Korok Woods to retrieve a newly-rejuvenated Master Sword. The focus on the Master Sword's ability to become infinitely stronger over time caught my attention. Just how strong is it going to be by the time it's back in Link's hands?

Link and Zelda in the Korok Woods Link and Zelda approach the Great Deku Tree The Master Sword on Link's back

The Great Deku Tree also gave me a location for the Master Sword. A vague one, at least – it's moving.

June 1, 2023

I had a few adventures in Korok Forest, at one point crawling mindlessly onto a very obvious talus boulder to get the shrine crystal stuck to him. (I panicked up there when he started standing up and got him down to a sliver of health in one mad dash.) I gave a Korok looking for golden apples the five I already had, then headed up the path to Mido Swamp's north side to see the orchard there anyway. I still haven't figured out what to do with them, but I collect every one I find anyway.

I left the woods, found a memorial Zelda left at Rauru Settlement, silent princess and her heart glowing on the stone.

A silent princess laying on a stone monument The stone tablet says, 'I dedicate this monument to the memory of the souls lost to the Calamity. -Zelda'

I found Rito statues in the depths. Signs of birds once underground?

Rito statues underground

Week Four

June 2, 2023

Gonna head to Zora's Domain next, I think -- getting the Master Sword later would be cooler -- but today was mostly wandering. I finally undammed the water in the Great Plateau on a tip from my wife and brought the statue's "eyes" back to him from the chasms up above. I found a soldier's ghost carrying an eightfold blade under Hateno, found the Wellspring of Wisdom under Lanayru that fed the Spring of Wisdom where Zelda once cried out for help. I finished my night up on Courage Island.

Link holding up a stone eye Link standing above the Wellspring of Wisdom Link activating a Zonai ring on Courage Island The diving platform at Courage Island In the pond at the bottom of Courage Island's dive area

June 6, 2023

I didn't play for a few days, and the first thing I saw when I opened up the game today was the light dragon in the distance. That must be Zelda, I realized.

Light dragon through the Purah Pad's scope

I'd done the practice dive the day before, but hadn't done the dive trial on Courage Island proper. When I talked to the construct there to start, he told me the dive ceremony was a coming of age event for Zonai youth, which made me smile. I completed it with ease, feeling like I'd participated in something ancient and connected to the hero's spirit, and received the glide shirt for my trouble.

Speaking to the Zonai, who says, 'The dive ceremony is a trial that tests your courage. It is a rite by which Zonai youth come of age.'

Afterwards I made my way down to Tabantha Bridge Stable. People there are still talking about Dondons, funny enough. I helped a man find his goats, who ran off because he was messing up their feed recipe so bad they couldn't stand it anymore (he was feeding them pinecones). I gathered some info, too:

I also found a lovely spot to sit on one of the giant mushroom-like tree(?) structures on Washa's Bluff. I can't help but wonder who built it.

A Rito-styled covered seat

I found another memory today, too, at a geoglyph shaped like Sonia. It was a lovely one. Sonia is so kind to Zelda. Zelda trusts and admires Link so much -- you can see it, hear it when she tells Sonia and Rauru about him. And it's so nice to realize that Rauru did get to meet Link after all, the way he wished he could. I hope that, somehow, Sonia gets to meet him, too.

Partial view of Sonia geoglyph from above Sonia holds Zelda's hands comfortingly Sonia gazes with care at Zelda, still holding her hands Zelda smiles gently, saying 'He is a royal knight. He had been originally appointed for my protection.' Zelda looks away thoughtfully. 'He is so very dedicated. And he refuses to back down from any challenge.' Zelda smiles more confidently. 'And his heart is good and true!' Sonia, Rauru, and Zelda sitting at a pavillion. Sonia says, 'What a picture Zelda paints of him!'

June 7, 2023

I found another dive ceremony island today -- Valor Island in the South Lanayru Sky Archipelago. "Many have particpated in the ceremony on this island," the construct there said. "You" -- Link, bearer of the hero's spirit, holder of the Triforce of Courage -- "showed that you have courage surpassing them all." It was a small moment, one that can easily be missed, but it felt special. Link is the true hero.

Steward Construct on Valor Island

Running around in the sky I found a Sage's Will, which increases my bond with a companion (actually just boosting their attack power, according to my wife, not reducing cooldown or strength of their power or anything). I messed around in one of those Death Star-like balls in the sky, unable to figure it out. I dove to the earth and a blood moon started as I fell, the sky rapidly distilling crimson around Link.

Sequence showing Link falling, the sky turning blue to deep red in a few seconds

Once on the ground, I sought out the tear-shaped geoglyph. This memory revealed, offhandedly, that the Gerudo did not ally freely with Ganondorf, at least in their entirety: "We just received word that the last free village in the Gerudo Desert has fallen." Interesting that there were multiple villages at the time, too -- perhaps a time when Gerudo culture was less centralized and unified? I'll probably never know, but it leaves room for an interesting picture, one that enriches the worldbuilding. And certainly it gives us a stronger image of Ganondorf's takeover, his forcefulness as a leader.

There was a moment in this cutscene that made me question Rauru's benevolence as a leader, actually, or at least his ego. He directs the ancient sages to swear to him "to serve Rauru, the King of Light." Not the Kingdom of Hyrule, or Hylia, or her people -- Rauru himself. And they all say it automatically after receiving power from Rauru, almost mindlessly. Ganondorf's mocking assertion that Rauru had tried (and failed) to control him flickered in my mind here, and the justified but still striking violent anger we saw the Zonai king react with. Rauru may be a kind man, a good king, certainly a good husband, beloved, but he seems a little stuck in his own righteousness as king. Did he haunt the Great Sky Island out of regret, like King Rhoam haunted the Great Plateau, regret for this stubborn righteousness, this sense of knowing best and having things under control, that led to his kingdom's downfall?

Sages making a solemn vow

But to be honest, I hesitate to credit the game itself with this reading. Nothing about this scene feels like the vow is meant to be seen as weird or a mistake -- not the cinematography, not the music. The mindless chanting could just be meant to be "solemn." We don't get to see what the sages think because the game isn't really interested in giving them faces -- they're symbols, which is fine on its own, but feels weird when they're used as symbols of devotion to an all-knowing monarch, a devotion that has gone unquestioned by the text.

Nevermind, though. I'll stick to my own interpretation over the seemingly intended reading. Makes things more interesting, at least. Less weird.

I made my way roughly towards Zora's Domain. On the way, I spotted aerocuda sleeping on a cliffside, their wings tucked against them like bats and their little tails hanging:

Aerocuda sleeping

I found the sludgy trail somewhere in the middle near the eighth Learnings of the Zora tablet. I tried to start over from the beginning of the trail, but it was difficult, and I did miss some, but here's what I did end up finding:

Learnings of the Zora as told by Prince Sidon (jump to bottom)


The Waters of Zora's Domain

Long, long ago, right here in Lanayru, incredible transformations, both subtle and drastic in nature, shaped the land.

The tall mountains birthed clouds, these clouds cried tears of rain, and this rain filled our deep valleys past the brim.

In time, this overflowing water became the Zora River, which bred waterfalls that fell and nourished the vast Lanayru Wetlands.

Perhaps it was inevitable that my Zora ancestors, who wandered in search of precious water, would finally settle here.

The mountains of Lanayru are blessed with high-quality stone. The structures built from said stone are solid yet refined.

Just like the Zora and our domain, our buildings exist in harmony with the water. It is a beautiful symbol of our way of life.

If you go to the edge of the domain, close your eyes and listen closely... you shall be greeted by the gentle sound of water.

This kind, soothing sound is a testament to the happy life the Zora are so grateful to have found here.

As one born of royal Zora blood, my duty is as clear as it is unshakable. I, Sidon, swear here and now...

I shall protect our home with my very life, that the gentle sound of water may never cease in our beloved domain.


The Legend of Ruto, Our Great Ancestor

It is written that long ago there was a strong-willed Zora princess who was as meandering as a winding river.

This princess, who was dearly loved by her fellow Zora, was as noble as she was innocent. Her name was Ruto.

One day, a powerful and wicked man tried to take over Hyrule and brought great ruin to the once-peaceful Zora's Domain.

Our tales speak of fallen Zora soldiers drifting down the river as it sadly reflected the chaotic retreat of the terrified Zora.

Princess Ruto bravely fought back her tears as she bore witness to the tragic misery unfolding in the domain.

Even amid her heartbreak, the Zora princess did all she could to help the weak and elderly escape.

Next she swam against the river's current and climbed the mighty waterfall to challenge her foe.

The details of this fight have fallen victim to the haze of time. Few details remain.

Still, it is said that she was aided by the princess of Hyrule and the hero of legend, and together they saved Hyrule.

So the legend goes.

I, Sidon, prince of the Zora, cannot help but ponder these events as I listen to the Zora children play in all their innocence.

As Princess Ruto's descendant, it is my fate to carry the torch of her brave acts into tomorrow and beyond. I shall not fail.


The Great King Dorephan

Several springs after I lost my dear sister, Mipha, a large group of Lizalfos attacked the domain.

It mattered not that this was my first true battle. The expectations of those around me weighed heavy on my shoulders.

The absence of Mipha, who had always been there to encourage me with loving kindness, was like a spear to the heart.

As for my own spear, though I was highly trained for its use, it seemed to only cut the air and slash the water's surface.

I was taken off guard by a surprise attack from three Lizalfos hiding at the water's edge, each with their blade fixed on me.

I knew that my time had come...and that is when the three Lizalfos disappeared, as quickly as they had arrived.

In their place, I saw the towering figure of my father, the great King Dorephan, who had just bested my foes with ease.

"Sidon, my son," he said firmly. "You allowed your heart to falter. That is the quickest way to fall on the battlefield."

His words cut deep, but as I stood on the brink of despair, a familiar voice gently encouraged me. "Your king needs you."

Many soldiers later attested that they were certain they had also heard the sweet voice of Mipha on that day.

From then on, my heart was true and my resolve firm. By lending strength to our king, we were able to save the domain.


Two Sisters of Different Blood

When I was young, I had an irrational fear of strangers. I was particularly bashful around Yona. Paralyzed, even.

She was already so mature in manner, and she treated me like a little brother, even though we were not related.

There came an unseasonably heavy rain that quickly flooded the river. Us children, who were playing there, were swept away.

I was battered by the water's strong flow, my fins helpless to resist. It was Yona who dragged me to the safety of the shore.

The water continued to swell as the shore waned, but Yona was unflappable, sweetly comforting me as I shivered in fear.

It was Mipha, my dear sister, who finally showed up to rescue us with other Zora adults in tow.

I still remember Yona's face as she gazed up at Mipha in admiration. My face must have looked the same as I gazed at Yona.

As a child, I had two big sisters. One by birth and one by chance. Yona looked up to Mipha, and I was in awe of them both.

Before I knew it, years had passed, and my feelings for Yona became more difficult to quantify. Then, one day...

My father informed me that the amazing young woman who had once been like a sister to me was to be my bride.

Perhaps these feelings and memories are too dear and private to commit to history, but such is the tale of this Zora prince.




The Story of Mipha Court: The Beginning

There was once a terrifying monster on Ploymus Mountain, loosing shock arrows on all who dared to cross its path.

It was of utmost importance to drive the beast away, but as the Zora are weak to electricity, our efforts were futile.

That is when a lone Hylian arrived at the domain. This swordsman who was sparing with his words...his name was Link.

Unlike us Zora, he was immune to shocks! Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but one thing is certain. He was very brave.

After careful preparation, he ascended Ploymus Mountain and defeated the foul beast all by himself.

As if in celebration of the newfound peace, clean water mysteriously began flowing at the top of Ploymus Mountain.

That is when many Zora, if not most, voiced support for building a place that all could enjoy in that formerly frightful spot.

Yet the many tree roots and stones made this task tricky, leading to a focus on the no-less-difficult matter of the name.

"Zora Park" was too obvious. "Ploymus Park" only conjured images of the former terrors found there.

When I candidly asked whether we should focus on the hard work at hand rather than the name, they all turned my way.

"Prince Sidon," they asked. "Surely you must have a good suggestion?" To that, I fell silent, and stayed so for a long while.

I shall write the conclusion of this story on another monument.




The Prince and the Swordsman

The rain always stops...except when it does not. This humorous saying was once repeated with a soft chuckle around here.

Then, one day, heavy rain started falling in the domain, and no matter how many days passed, it did not cease.

Although the Zora are a water-dwelling sort, we came to miss the warmth of the sun and the dry winds upon our backs.

Alas, as fervent as our desire was, we had no means of stopping the cause of this unprecedented disaster.

When all had given up hope, I, Sidon, took it upon myself to invite a Hylian to the domain.

This young swordsman of few words was named Link. I trusted him at once, sensing great devotion in his kind eyes.

It was immediately clear that my instincts were correct. Thanks to Link, we were able to face the threat head on.

Our battle with the source of the disaster was intense, but my newfound friend and I refused to yield until we finally triumphed.

Sometimes, written words flow so much more readily than those spoken...

Link, my dearest friend, you are an unparalleled swordsman, and I admire you so very much.

He may lack fins and gills, but it matters not. This hero among heroes exudes magnificence tempered with steadiness.

Though we are different, our hearts both yearn to serve a higher calling. I learned much from him, and am eternally grateful.


The Princess of Hyrule

Once that despicable disaster had ceased to plague Zora's Domain, a distinguished yet humble lady paid us a visit.

This young woman who appeared with Link at her side was none other [sic?] Princess Zelda of the royal family of Hyrule.

"I beg forgiveness," she said earnestly. "Because of the royal family, Princess Mipha..." She paused, unable to continue.

Small silent teardrops tumbled down her cheek and hit the floor, one after another, each saying a thousand unspoken words.

She gently wiped her eyes and lifted her gaze to meet the king's, speaking kind words of gratitude for Mipha's sacrifice.

We knew well that what had transpired was the result of a decision shared by the Zora and by Princess Mipha herself.

There was no need for the princess of Hyrule's apology, and even less so for her sorrow.

King Dorephan, along with the rest of the Zora, were moved by the depth of Princess Zelda's sincerity.

She had held that unthinkable disaster at bay for nearly 100 years with nothing more than the sheer force of her own will.

Yet she was not prideful. She dutifully set to work, traveling across Hyrule to secure cooperation for the kingdom's restoration.

She was adored by all, yet so humble. She possessed an inner strength that shone like a star in the night sky.

I used to think that inner strength could be forged by building physical strength, but now I am not so certain.

I feel a strong calling to one day acquire the same sort of strength within myself.



The Solid Water and the Fluid Spear

The Zora are not associated with water because of our dwelling place alone.

We each also, to varying extents, possess the ability to actually manipulate water. We use this gift for many purposes.

We use it to swim faster, to achieve mighty leaps from the waves below, to gather fish, and so much more.

For me, the true awakening of this ability that many of my childhood chums already possessed came upon me quite suddenly.

One day as I was training at Veiled Falls, the rain slickened my grasp, causing me to drop my spear.

I reached to grab it, but it was already too far away. Soon it would fall to the bottom of the cliff, never to be seen again.

I knew that I must take hold of it, and at that moment, droplets created a stream extending from my outstretched hand.

The water stream twisted and turned until it finally took hold of my falling spear and deftly returned it to my grasp.

In that moment, the water was solid and my spear fluid. This sensation forever changed my approach to spearplay.

I was reminded of how my sister, Mipha, described it...and everything clicked. Water and spear became as one.

Gaining yet another layer of admiration for my dear sister, I devoted myself to my spear training from then on.


The Great Task Entrusted to Me

I, Sidon, was entrusted with the great task of renovating the Zora stone monuments that had fallen to ruin.

There are 11 stone monuments total found in and around Zora's Domain, including the one you are now reading.

The former text written by my father, King Dorephan, could not be salvaged, and so sadly it had to be replaced.

Despite my royal blood, whispers abound that it is improper for someone my age to write over the king's glorious words.

Ah, but do they not realize that it was King Dorephan himself who ordered me to undertake this restoration project?

Father says it is not set in stone that I shall be the one to inherit the throne, as it is not a matter of blood alone.

If we ask the eternal skies above whether I am fit to rule, they shall remain silent, and so we must look to our fellow Zora.

He urged me to use these monuments to share my learnings and speak to our people straight from my heart.

Father is older and wiser than I. His sage advice is a gift. As such, I have inscribed my thoughts upon these 11 stones.

I do not know how far-reaching my words shall be, but it is my hope that they will reach whoever needs to hear them most.

Until one of my descendants writes over my musings many years from now, I pray they resonate with whoever reads them.

(I'll add the pieces I find after today, too.)

Before I wrapped up for the night, not yet to Zora's Domain, I unfortunately ran into Sasan, who's desperately trying to reach Finely in Zora's Domain. (I have five vomitting emojis in my notes here.) I initially thought that it was excusable for these characters to return, as I was under the impression that the romance aspect of their relationship was added in the English localization, as many in the anglophone fandom have been discussing lately, and if the issue wasn't present in the base Japanese game, why would the Japanese team feel the need to remove them to rectify it? However, it turns out that the romantic overtones were present in the Japanese (this video (outgoing link) provides some info and context why I was under the wrong impression before), and the romantic overtones are pretty bad in this game, too, from what I'm hearing. So I'm not happy about it. Fuck this guy.

Sasan says, 'Finley is waiting for me... I'll find a way to Zora's Domain no matter what...'

June 8, 2023

The music at Zora's Domain is pretty scary, with that anxious piano and harp, but at least there's a very cute statue there of Link and Sidon, at least:

Light blue stone statue showing the events of BOTW, with Link riding on Sidon's back Closeup on the faces of the statue

I met Yona, and at first thought she might be the sage. I'm sure it's actually Sidon, but if wasn't, she'd be a good fit. She has this quiet, gentle sagelyness to her, especially with her healing power. She told me that Sidon's up at Mipha Court on Ploymus Mountain, then retired to the infirmary above the pavillion.

Yona, a lime green Zora

I did some poking around the domain before I went looking for Sidon. A Zora researcher told me the prince is looking for info on a "sky land" that he thinks could be relevant to the sludge that, it turns out, has been making Zoras fall ill left and right. King Dorephan is alive but absent, out investigating the sludge himself.

Other details from this poking around:

When I finally got up to the peak of Ploymus, Sidon was overjoyed to see Link:

Sidon with his arms wide with joy. He says, 'It's good to see you, my friend!'

This place, Mipha Park, is the source of the water in Zora's Domain, he explained. He was holding back sludge from the water supply when I found him. He sent me to find the researcher Jiahto at Toto Lake.

The clean waters of Mipha Park. Sidon explains that it's the source of the domain's water A statue of Mipha watches over the park

I helped Jiahto with a tablet he was trying to translate:

Stand upon the land of the sky fish, and behold its loft view. Among the floating rocks you see, a droplet waits for you.

Through this droplet, shoot an arrow with the mark of the king. Do this task, and you shall reveal a most wondrous thing.

See the watery bridge's resting spot with your own two eyes...that which connects the Zora to the people of the skies.

Next, I had to locate King Dorephan. After I obtained the Zora Armor top ("Armor crafted by a past Zora princess for her future husband," probably the same set Mipha made Link and that Link obtained in BOTW), I eavesdropped on some Zora kids for clues. His secret hiding place was somewhere clean water flowed between the domain and Ploymus, with a secret entrance hidden behind a waterfall. With this in mind, I found him fairly quickly -- but he was in bad shape.

King Dorephan, his scales flecked with large muddy blemishes

He revealed that Zelda had recently been here, too. She'd descended from the sky with some kind of sludge monster, and had "unleashed" it upon him. He'd been injured.

He seemed so old, languishing here in his hiding place. I became a little nervous that he might die. "Perhaps," he said, "the time is nearing for me to pass the title of King on to Sidon."

Week Five

June 9, 2023

I'd noticed the fish-shaped sky island when filling out my map for this region, and had actually considered exploring it. I only didn't because it looked like it would be important. I knew right away that was where Jiahto's tablet was pointing me.

The island was near the park, a dirty -- but swimmable! -- waterfall spilling down from its edge. I swam up, king's mark (bundle of scales) in hand and started looking for the droplet in the rubble around the island.

It was invisible from all angles but one:

A teardrop shapee outlined by bits of floating teal stone

Sidon and I chased down the green beam the teardrop created in a lake, and he created a whirlpool for me to get to a cave down there. (Don't ask me how this works.)

This led me to the Ancient Zora Waterworks. Not too much to do down here, just a few changes to the water level to bring a waterfall down from some sky islands, but I liked it a lot. It reminded me just a little of Great Bay Temple specifically, with its weird mechanical mystery.

The new waterfall led to Wellspring Island, a big pre-temple area with moon gravity that was a lot of fun. The water temple itself up above Wellspring was fairly breezy, too. The Mucktorok boss was really fun and funny, and I loved the Shin Godzilla move, where he looks like baby Godzilla with the gills and uses (adult) Godzilla's beam.

A mudddy shark-like creature with glowing purple gills and mouth and beady eyes with no lids A shot of the Mucktorok creature shooting a muddy purple beam

Sidon was, of course, overjoyed to accept the responsibility his ancestor left for him. Sidon's friendship with Link really makes me smile.

Sidon clasping hands with Link. He says, 'I, Sidon, the Sage of Water, swear that I will fight by your side.' Sidon looking excited. He says, 'We're partnered up again! Yes! All right, let's head back home.'

With Zora's Domain restored, King Dorephan passed on his crown to his son, now King Sidon. It was a joyful scene, with all the Zoras grateful to be free of the sludge and excited about their future under King Sidon and his fiancée Yona.

Zora's Domain, now clean, in the morning light King Dorephan speaking to Link: 'No words could express the depths of my gratitude. Thank you, hero. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.' Sidon saluting with the king's crown on his head, addressing Zora's Domain: 'I hereby inherit this crown from my father, The Exalted Dorephan. From this moment on, I shall be king of the Zora!'

Lots of quest info to gather now that things are more settled, of course:

I returned to the depths after some surface-wandering. I discovered the Wellspring of Courage (under the Spring of Courage, of course), then followed the Gerudo statues southwest from the central mine. I found South Lomei Depths Labyrinth on the way, too – there's labyrinths down here to deal with, too?

Poes floating before a waterfall underground Link stands before a hulking labyrinth in the depths

Eventually I made it to Abandoned Gerudo Mine. Master Kohga was just standing around under the clock structure, smacking at a Zonai interface so intently he didn't notice me clear out the rest of the base he'd built up there. As usual, I beat his ass, and before he split for the eastern mine, he revealed that he's collecting crystallized charges to build a doomsday device for Ganondorf.

Master Kohga slapping a Zonai interface Kohga yelling at the interface Kohga complaing. 'Urk! Bleh! This place has too much sand! You're only winning because it keeps getting in my eyes!'

A construct pointed me in the right direction – there are two chasms, one in Lanayru Wetlands and one south of there in a mountain village, with statues pointing to Lanayru Mine. I headed for Lanayru Wetlands, and found not just Marbled Gohma down in its depths, but another Mucktorok. (I was thrilled to attach Gohma’s big claw to one of my weapons, and amused to see Mucktorok just drops plain old octorok parts.)

Link poses with the piece of Gohma's claw behind him Inventory screen. Link has the claw piece on the tip of a sword

Kohga was still trying to get autobuild to work at Abandoned Lanayru Mine, but his underlings have supposedly located the Demon King. Our next meeting will be our last, he says.

Once again, a construct helped me out. Kohga was probably referring to the Abandoned Hebra Mine, but few chasms in Hebra can reach it now that the path from Hyrule Ridge is no longer viable. There should be a chasm somewhere that connects directly to the mine, but the construct didn’t know where it was, and there are no obvious markers on the map.

I figured Rito Village was a good place to start, but even with the little Sheikah scientist’s hint that there was a chasm on the cliff face there, I couldn’t seem to find it for the life of me. Eventually, eventually, I found it: a cave boring into the side of the island Rito Village sits upon. I saved for the night, ready to take Kohga on tomorrow.

Oh, and I found another tablet, this one about Sonia:

Original Text

My Interpretation

Sonia, quen to Hyrules kyng, bi birthe Hylian preeseterresse, hirself yborn of londe, nat of skie aboven.

Sonia, queen to Hyrule's king, by birth a Hylian priestess, herself was born on land, not of sky above.

Speken she with open herte, eornest to alle, euen even to the Zonais kyng.

Spoke she with an open heart, ernest to all, even openly [smoothly/impartially/evenly] to the Zonai's king.

This kyng ythinke it gode aventure so to lerne of the londes folke. To sen his hed ybent to listenen is swich pleasaunce.

This king thought it a good chance to learn of the land's folk. To see his head bent to listen is such pleasance/pleasure.

Link gazing at a satori on a snowy cherry blossom mountain

June 10, 2023

I descended down into the Abandoned Hebra Mine at last. There wasn't much to investigate before the fight, since this chamber of the depths was so small and cut off, so I approached Kohga after just a couple minutes.

He showed off his ultimate creation, a mech-like Zonai construct, and insisted he was going to destroy Link and then take his place beside the Demon King. He said before he's going to resurrect Ganondorf and destroy the world, but I think his plan only really goes so far as taking out Link, since the mech sure as hell can't bring Ganon back or destroy Hyrule (and I think that's Kohga's real MO, if he's honest with myself).

A small mech, Kohga's so-called 'unstoppable' Zonai construct

I beat him pretty quickly, and he blew himself away with his stupid rocket, flying up out of the depths. I'm sure we'll run into him again, since he's pretty dedicated, but I don't think he'll be a problem anymore.

A defeated Kohga stomping and huffing, 'I was THIS CLOSE to destroying the world with the Demon King!' Kohga, stuck on the head of a huge bundle of rockets, saying 'Th-this wasn't supposed to happeeeeeeen!' Kohga cartoonishly flying across the underground-sky, saying 'How dare you, Link?!' Master Kohga of the Yiga Clan quest marked complete

The steward construct down there emphasized that mines like this exist under surface settlements and "other places of distinction," and that there seems to be a close connection between the two. "It may be a good idea for you explore this connection," it said.

I wonder what exactly that's all about, since it's been so heavily highlighted. Is it a weird cosmic mirror of Hyrule? Was it just a matter of being an easy commute using ascend when people were actively mining down here? Maybe they just felt like the closest places to home when people moved to the surface, since there are signs of ancient civilizations in the depths? I stopped by Lookout Landing to talk to Josha and she didn't have any more leads for me. I'll have to keep looking.

I decided to do some side quests I've been meaning to get to, starting with the Great Fairy quests. I found the Stable Trotters' horn player on the western route to Rito Village, near Piper's Ridge, funnily enough, and helped him out of a giant pothole.

I headed to Dueling Peaks to bring the sound of the horn to the Great Fairy nearby, only to find she's looking for a drummer. Mastro, the troupe leader, pointed me to the bend in the road to Kakariko by Bonooru's Stand. So which was it that wanted to hear the horn?

While I was at Dueling Peaks I caught up with the Master Gourd guy:

With so many travelers passing through the stables, I thought at least one would know about the legendary pumpkin.

But sadly, no such luck as yet.

A legendary sword, you say? And it's called the Master Sword?

Wait, hey! So then the Master Gourd I'm looking for...

Is it possible that I misheard? That they were talking about the Master Sword?

...Nah! Why, just the other day I heard a rumor about the Master Gourd being in the Lost Woods up north.

Guess you misheard, friend! That's so embarrassing for you, hahaha!

I talked to the Great Fairy at the Outskirt Stable again, and she reminded me that there was a Great Fairy in Hebra I hadn't been able to coax out yet -- the only other Great Fairy still hidden away besides for the Dueling Peak fairy. When I found the stable near there, Snowfield Stable, I discovered that the troupe is seemingly stuck at Dueling Peaks until I find that damn drummer.

Some other notes from the stable:

I decided to do some newspaper quests since Penn was already at Snowfield. According to the stablehand, this stable's been tending a golden horse for Zelda. The horse became extremely upset when Zelda herself (supposedly) appeared, broke out of her stall and bolted for north. The horse normally adores her, and Zelda had a very cold expression. Perhaps the same not-Zelda puppet we've been running into elsewhere?

There was a frost gleeok -- the same one that chased me before, I think -- haunting the snowfield. My wife insisted she did the quest without fighting the gleeok, and that I really didn't need to, but I wanted to prove myself finally. After many attempts, stumbling through the snow through smaller hunks of fallen masonry, I held my ground at the big arch at the north end, taking advantage of its roof and broad pillars and dodging and ascending. In the final phase, I recalled the huge icicles he sent flying down toward me and rose up above his storm. As I hung in the air, I used Link's slowdown ability, carefully picking off the three heads with fire fruit arrows, chugging stamina potions with expert timing so I wouldn't miss a shooting window or drop and shatter on the icy ground below. Finally, he fell, and I whaled on him with my gohma claw sword, and he bowed to me. I collected his horns and turned in for the night, pleased with myself.

Link riding the giant horse away from a Frost Gleeok's beam

June 11, 2023

I found her just a little ways north of the Gleeok's territory and caught her easily. Zelda's golden horse is kind of tacky-gaudy with how metallic she is, but she's pretty cute and sweet-tempered, so I was glad when the stable girl asked me to take care of her. I named her Babydoll.

Zelda's pretty golden horse with white mane and royal gear

I decided to go to Lucky Clover Gazette, then thought better of it and went back to Lookout Landing to get Karson to fix the bridge connecting to Rito Village. He and Gesane the Rito made quick work of it once I'd handed over some wood pieces. I was really touched by how the two had connected, inviting the other to call whenever they needed help, even with something small.

Hylian carpenter Karson talking to Rito Gesane. 'Gesanne, if you ever need my help, just say the word and I'll come running. No problem's too small.'

Traysi told me Penn was at Dueling Peaks investigating a statement the Yiga Clan had sent the paper about Zelda. I headed there are did my usual round of info-gathering:

And the statement from the Yiga: they claim they've kidnapped Zelda. "We have taken Zelda to the carved-out heart of the towering twins!" (Penn, not an impartial journalist, up on the stable roof, angrily on the lookout for our kidnappers, muttering, "How dare those Yiga!" really got me.)

I decided the "carved-out heart" must be some kind of cave, so I turned on my bubbulfrog sensor and walked the road between the peaks until it started pinging. Nearby up above on the north side. I scrambled around to test the sensor, eventually finding a cave. There was a weird triangle pattern on the ceiling, but really nothing else of note:

Pyramid pattern of dots and lines on the roof of a cave

I tried the south peak, and somewhere along my bubbulfrog sensor goose chase on that side I found a little nook. And there was Zelda, all cheerful to see Link in a big metal cage like a mouse in a cheese trap, left out here with no guards in the middle of nowhere, in the rain.

Obviously this was a trap, but it was a fun one.

Link running up to Zelda in a cartoonish cage in the middle of nowhere, completely unguarded. She says, 'Link, help me!' Link posing sillily in front of the cage while Zelda stands in a casual, unbothered yet helpless pose Zelda smiles, cute and totally unbothered and overly innocent Zelda smiles at Link. 'Oh, Link! You came to save me! You recognize who I am, right? Zelda!'

Back at the Gazette:

Traysi sent me to Highland Stable (which is looking for a photo of a giant white stallion -- I should take the road toward the Lake of the Horse God southeast of here). Turns out it's something I'd heard about before: the voice at night. I was too sleepy to chase it down, so I left it for tomorrow.

June 12, 2023

I was so preoccupied with finding that fake Zelda yesterday that I totally forgot there was a cave on that side of the peaks I never found, which may have more clues about the weird drawing I found in the northern mountain's cave. I made a brief trip there, fought a hinox on my hunt (I forgot that there was a quest to hunt down each hinox, talus and molduga), then finally found the cave. Inside, I discovered a triangle of switches, and following the diagram I'd seen yesterday, set stones on four of them. A ruin slid open, revealing one of Misko's elaborate treasure shrines. Inside was Tingle's shirt.

Back at Highland, with scaredy-cat Penn, I found the source of the song: a woman singing in a well. Her singing had sounded like Zelda due to the acoustics, but also pretty threatening; people were hearing "seek the storm, seek the storm / fear it not, you will stay warm" as something like "leave the arms, leave the arms / or I will do you harm." Lots of good, free weapons down there, since people have been giving their arms up in fear, and I got the frog leggings at last!

Traysi tells me Penn is headed to South Akkala Stable next. Something about a talking cucco. Akkala is a region I remember really liking in BOTW but have yet to visit in TOTK, and I do have some things to do there, but I think it's time to start heading to Gerudo.

I zigzagged south from Rito Village. I scooped up silent princesses at a quiet, sparkling pond on Piper Ridge, wondering if Link thought of Zelda whenever he saw the flowers, if he collects them for her, or because they remind him of her. I wandered the canyon for caves of Zonai ruins. I felled a stalnox, then a talus. Windmills twirled above me as I wound down near Hyrule's western border.

Zonai ruins Zonai ruins Link posing cutely by a stone talus heart

June 13, 2023

I turned more properly southward today, scaling snowy mountains, skirting another frost gleeok on Gerudo Summit. Once I'd found way my into the snowed-in tower, I caught a falling star midair and chased another to the surface. I rode a bear, just for a minute before turning him loose. I sat in an empty skull house. I snuck breathlessly around a cave with gloom hands and snagged one of Misko's treasures -- phantom armor. I found the back entrance to the Yiga Clan's old(?) hideout (blocked) and the chasm they'd probably used to descend into the depths, paper lanterns slathered in gloom. I found the last of the 11 geoglyphs on a face of the Gerudo Highlands looking out over Gerudo Desert proper.

Frost Gleeok sunning on a snowy peak Baobab-like trees in a grove The geoglyph's lines rest as if projected on the red face of the cliff by the sunrise lighting it

This last memory brings up many questions. We've been told that the ancient past where Zelda has been sent is the very beginning of Hyrule. Yet Hyruleans (and note the use of the nationality form, meaning "from Hyrule," not Hylian, the race of pointed-ear humans) are seemingly an established group, based on Ganondorf's reference to Rauru having "taken a Hyrulean woman as your wife." This statement implies that Sonia was considered Hyrulean before their union and the founding of Hyrule.

While I'm crazy about the existing Zelda timeline, this is okay with me. This feels very myth-like, like a condensed, syncretic idea of the Hyrule mythos. I am a little sad that we aren't getting information about the fallen hero era Imprisoning War after all, though. (I suppose if TOTK acts as a concretion of Hyrule's mythology, though, that perhaps we'll be getting bits about the "actual" event it pulls from.)

We also learn that the Zonai, save for Rauru and Mineru, have already disappeared. What happened to the rest? Ganondorf refers to a time he seemingly did not live through when he says the Zonai must have seemed godlike when they descended to the surface. The way Ganondorf brings this up feels mocking and even threatening, which could just be his usual smug cruelty, but could also imply they didn't simply dwindle in numbers over time -- something or someone wiped them out. And how long were they on the surface?

I wonder, too, at what Zelda knows. She says the name Ganondorf gives her pause, and she says that she senses his evil, but she doesn't mention Calamity Ganon or any other knowledge from her time. It's possible that she's simply trying to not alter history too much, but she may not know the name Ganondorf, and that he is the source of Calamity Ganon.

Ganondorf kneels before the king, saying 'It is our desire to be accepted into the protective embrace of your kingdom. To serve it faithfully.' Ganondorf smirks

And Rauru's boldness here, his confidence that he can control someone so bold himself as Ganondorf, and that nothing will ever threaten his peace... I see now the mistakes he feels he must atone for.

Rauru sits comfortably on his throne, secret stone aglow. He says, 'A welcome appeal, Ganondorf. I will accept your vow of fealty to the kingdom of Hyrule Rauru smiles, Sonia sitting calmly beside him, looking warm as well. Rauru says, 'There is nothing to worry about.' Nice shot of the throne room

The light dragon -- Zelda -- flew above me and let out a roar. She looks beautiful like this, but sad. How long has she been lonely like this? The Master Sword sits lodged in her forehead, glowing. She cried another tear, one that fell in Akkala.

Link looks up at the light dragon flying above him The light dragon's eye glistens with another tear, the Master Sword sleeping in her forehead, shrouded withh flowing, sacred light

One more memory.

June 14, 2023

I started today with a conversation with a friend who'd been excited to talk to me about timeline stuff:

rubyfire77: ok i still havent beaten the game because im taking my sweet time so im not ready for a full-on discussion, but i wanted to share with you some of my current thoughts before i forget [screenshot of two paragraphs in June 13 entry beginning with "This last memory brings up many questions..."]

banchuu: [eyes emoji] really good points and pieces here. I think you're right on about this not fitting in with the current zelda timeline; it just feels like this has been a reboot, with imprisoning war getting tossed together as well. I do really like the take that Rauru and his wife were like, founders of hyrule as a kingdom and not hyrule as a place

rubyfire77: YEAH i feel like botw may be a sleeper reboot of the series, especially given that interview recently where they said theyre treating botw as the new oot in terms of like, it being the template for gameplay moving forward? let me see if i can grab the link

banchuu: yeah- I get the feeling that like, the whole "age of myth" concept was first and foremost a way to distance themselves from the timeline and start doing their own thing. With how things have been going so far I'm pretty happy with that [prayer hands emoji]

This is the bit I was thinking of, from the Game Informer article "Interview: Tears Of The Kingdom And The State Of Zelda With Aonuma And Fujibayashi" (outgoing link):

EA [series producer Eiji Aonuma]: With Ocarina of Time, I think it's correct to say that it did kind of create a format for a number of titles in the franchise that came after it. But in some ways, that was a little bit restricting for us. While we always aim to give the player freedoms of certain kinds, there were certain things that format didn't really afford in giving people freedom. Of course, the series continued to evolve after Ocarina of Time, but I think it's also fair to say now that we've arrived at Breath of the Wild and the new type of more open play and freedom that it affords. Yeah, I think it's correct to say that it has created a new kind of format for the series to proceed from.

I didn't have much time to actually play today, though, since I was focused on other things. I decided to investigate some of the sky islands in the Gerudo Highlands region, starting with the circle of sky islands around another of those Death Star-looking orbs, then headed into the orb itself: Starview Island. Looks to be lots of mirror puzzles! I'm excited to tackle it tomorrow.

Link skydiving into a sort of Deathstar-like sphere Inside view of Starview Island, a puzzle area inside the sphere with mirrors and beams of light

June 15, 2023

Didn't have much time to play today, but I did finish that puzzle! It's cool to finally be doing light stuff. I set a course for the other sky islands nearby to check out tomorrow.