“Do you understand, Sidon?”
Mipha’s voice is never less than kind. It never rises even in anger, never lowers even in sorrow. Sidon is barely tall enough to reach her middle still, but Mipha crouches to his level every time they speak. She sits next to him when he is calm enough to sit, and lies by his side when sleep cannot find him.
Mipha’s voice is like a stream, their father once said with pride dripping out of every word. Sidon spent a long time never catching the meaning of those words; not until he was old enough to stay up for the full day and night of the rainy season come, when Mipha and the other girls of age sing under the cool rain.
“Do you understand?”
Sidon looks down the height of the waterfall, fingers loose around the bar at its summit. One wrong step and he could lose his footing, but he is not afraid.
Mipha has already carried him down the length of it on her back. He’s sure he can do it by himself now.
“Can we try again?” he asks her, and he’s already forgotten all about what she was telling him.
He’s young. Even for a Zora, he’s still barely out of infanthood. Barely old enough to stay awake for Mipha’s singing, to hear her voice run crystalline above the choir as they welcome the rainfall. He always falls asleep mid-song.
You can’t tell her voice apart from the rain at all, said the bearded Hylian their father had invited last year.
Their father had nodded. The guest had nodded as well, as though agreeing to something. The Hylian girl half-hidden behind his wide robes had looked at Mipha, and blushed, and smiled shyly.
Mipha is silent now. Sidon meets her eyes, squinting against the setting sun. Its light is sleek on her red scales, makes her shine like a ruby. She looks at him the same as always, kind-eyed and gentle, and Sidon smiles at her with all his teeth.
“Can we?” he asks again.
“You didn’t listen to anything I said, did you?”
The fin at the back of his head shakes in embarrassment. Mipha laughs, soft as a receding tide, and brushes a hand against it.
She takes him down the waterfall again. And again, and again, and again, long after night has settled over Zora’s Domain and let starlight break apart on its gleaming arcs and bridges. Sidon is too excited to feel the fatigue of the day. He laughs, and yells, gripping his sister’s middle as she swims them around.
“You’re the fastest in the world,” he tells her.
He has never met someone better than her. Mipha is smart, and strong, and sweet. She is more beautiful than any other Zora woman. She can climb atop Ruta and make it obey her wishes.
Mipha laughs, and says, “Thank you, little brother.”
Sidon doesn’t think to question why she lets him play with her this late. Every breath he draws, in and out of the water, is filled with joy. He swims up the waterfall again and again, with Mipha in his trail, and she catches him every time he falters.
He is not scared of anything. Not of the Divine Beast which frightens the ancients; not of the red moon which rose last month and made his people cower in fear; not of the Hylian girl’s sorrowful eyes as she looks upon them every time she visits.
Mipha carries him on her back when he starts getting sleepy. She tucks him into bed and kisses his head. She murmurs, “I love you always,” where no one but him can hear.
Sidon sleeps unafraid.
Sidon does not get out of the water as the Hylian boy disappears into Vah Ruta’s body. He doesn’t take his eyes away from the structure of the Beast, not once. The cool water does nothing to quiet his heart, and its beat hurries each time Ruta’s trunk moves one way or the other, each time he glimpses Link running across its flanks or climbing dangerously up its back.
He isn’t bothered by the perpetual rain. Were it not for the risk of seeing Zora’s Domain submerged, Sidon does not think he would mind waking every day feeling like he is swimming. That the Beast is moving at all is a sign, he feels, much like the gut-gripping malice that seeps out of Hyrule Castle’s every window. But where that malice is slick as mud and leaves his body shivering, Ruta’s unending rain makes his heart want to weep.
It looks like the Beast is crying too.
Sidon floats for hours in the reservoir’s still waters. He ignores the call of his name, his people’s urgency and cries. He was the one who brought the Hylian boy here to take care of their problem; it doesn’t matter that Link was destined to fix it, that he is as old as Sidon himself. Sidon will not move away from where he is until he sees him to safety.
Ruta moves as the sun lowers behind the mountains.
At first Sidon doesn’t notice that the rain has stopped. It is not until the waters shake around him that he realizes the Divine Beast is walking, through the basin and under it, each of its step an earthquake. Sidon is the fastest swimmer in the Domain, but even he struggles to keep pace with the machine’s immense steps. He tires once he reaches land, not as graceful standing as he was in the lake, and yet he runs.
Ruta perches itself atop a promontoire. Sidon is too out of breath by the time he catches up to take in the view of the land, extending as far as the horizon allows. From there Death Mountain’s fire glows; from there Hyrule Castle glistens.
Sidon does not look at the land. He looks at Vah Ruta’s head, at the blue light it shines upon rocks and water, at the ray of energy it shoots in the direction of the cursed castle.
He looks at Ruta’s shoulder, where wind and water alike seem to be catching his eyes, and remembers.
The statue raised at the center of the Domain is one Sidon has looked at every day since understanding that Mipha was gone not for a while, but forever. It was sculpted in her image by the greatest craftsmen of the region. It shows her in grace and power, down to every detail that Sidon, that their father, that everyone could recall. Yet it does not do her justice. It does not shine in the sun like she once did, and the rain that has soaked it for weeks now has started eating at it bit by bit. Smoothing each edge, digging into stone.
Sidon has forgotten what Mipha really looked like. He has forgotten her speed, her eyes, her smile. The voice he attaches to her image has been weakened, like an echo in a closed room, fading a little more each time the door opens.
Now he hears her, clear as he did when he was a child riding on her back. Sidon, she calls.
Sidon cannot see ghosts or spirits the way Link does; yet he knows that where he is looking, Mipha is looking back.
I love you always.
He remembers that night she let him play with her long past the time for sleep. He remembers the joy that shook him then, though he had no inkling that a few days later she would be gone—that the last lesson he would learn from her was grief.
He felt joy, once, filling him through the chest and ringing in his head. It expands through him now like the rising tide. It tears a wider smile out of him than he has felt like giving in eons.
It makes him cry, but not from pain.
“I love you too,” he calls back. His voices bounces off the rocks and riddles the still water. “Always.”
The setting sun paints Ruta as red as Mipha’s scales.