Zelda, wearing the remnants of a shirt tied around her waist in a sort of skirt, (it was too hot to wear a top) stared at the beach, watching the waves rolling in, the gulls swooping down to the water in hopes of finding an unlucky fish and the vacant spot where their boat had been. Twelve weeks ago today she and Link landed on the deserted isle, hoping to meet up with the Zoras to see the meteor shower. But after thoroughly inspecting the island, they discovered none of the fish people. Link realized that this was the wrong island. He had missed it somehow. So the pair headed back to the beach, to correct their mistake, but found that their boat drifted. Link tried with all his might to swim out to it and board, but to no avail. The boat was gone.
After they realized they were stuck, their previous search had proved helpful. The elfin boy and girl knew the lay of the land. The island was more or less the shape of an oblong, rounded diamond, with the ends pointing east and west. The interior was a highland, split into two halves by a ravine. There was a plateau on the western end, which they decided to call The Headland. The ravine that separated the Twin Highlands was generally smooth walled, save for a spot almost near the back of it. Due to a landslide in past years, or even eons, a hole had been breached in the wall, leaving a rather spacious cave. Roughly hexagonal, the cave was sheltered by the gully’s high sides and The Headland from wind, sun and storm. And as if by some wonderful stroke of luck, a clear little spring flowed in the rear of the ravine.
Tools were an essential. A vein of flint ran though the backside of the Northern Half. Link, clothed in the same style as Zelda, could break off a chunk of the chalk encrusted stone and shape it into a sort of hand-held axe, which wasn‘t much more than a wedge of sharp rock with one side blunted. And if he wanted to, he could thin the blade down even more, making a knife. Then with great precision he could make it saw toothed by breaking off tiny fragments along the cutting edge.
Trees grew on the Northern Highland only. The Southern Half was higher in elevation by far, making another natural windbreak. Some of the trees were fruit bearing as well. But a fruit like neither Zelda nor Link had ever seen. With a skin much like an orange, the smooth, almost liquid inside was sweet and sour. The usual way to ingest such a thing was to poke a hole in the outside and suck out the inside. It had become First Food on The Island.
But it was not the only food. Being an island, the ocean life contributed much to their diets. Crabs, lobsters, bivalves, fish, and waterfowl made up the major part of their meals. There were also plentiful tubers, edible roots, on the highland, coming from a certain shrub Link knew from his adventures in Termina. Plus the seeds of a long grass Zelda had read about in a plant class she took as a girl came into play. With the seeds they could make flat breads, crisp little cakes and gruel. Among the trees on the Northern Half were flowering plants, usually thickly inhabited by droves of bees. And where there were bees, there was honey. Link was the one who had found the cove of liquid gold on the Southern Half. Now their tasteless and watery gruel would have flavor.
The long grass also served another purpose: baskets. Link, who had grown up in a forest making little handicrafts with Saria for their food, was quite the basket maker.
Using the saw-toothed tool he made, he harvested great handfuls of the hardy grass. Water tight and coated with the sandy lumps of pitch that washed onto shore, they could use them for cooking, water, gathering, anything they wanted. But the problem with baskets was that they frayed. Link made baskets in bulk, though. If they needed one, he made ten. Until Zelda made a grand discovery: clay. A small pocket lay just below the Headland, the result of runoff and flooding. Link also knew how to make earthenware. He soaked the clay in water for ten days, and then strained it for any impurities. He then placed the slurry into a very well made basket, and let it dry until it could be handled. Link would quickly work it into whatever shape he needed, be it a bowl, platter, pot, or even a comb. The platter he made found its use as a drying stone. The inside of the odd fruit could be left in a thin layer and dried into a sort of wrap. Zelda liked to put crabmeat into the sheets and eat it much like a burrito.
He let the clay pieces dry out for seven days. Finally, it was fired. The ravine was devoid of any brush, except in front of the spring in the backside of the gully, so it was safe to build up the huge fire he needed. Driftwood, the remains of past meals, bones, baskets beyond repair, anything was burned. There had only been two firings in the three months they were on the island, and it was a good way to get rid of any waste that piled up.
The next problem they ran into was tiring of their heavily seafood laden meals. All of it was gathered by hand, Zelda’s hand most of the time, while Link worked on ways to get better meat. Namely, spears, arrows, nets and even a boat. The wood wasn’t hard to come across. But the nets were another issue. To make a good strong net, one needed good strong material.
“What about grass?” Zelda asked him. “It makes wonderful baskets and mats. Why not make a net of it?”
“Because,” Link sighed heavily. “Grass isn’t really all that strong. What I’d need is kelp. Or stringy bark. Even the tendons or ligaments of a seal. But sinew doesn’t take water all that well, so that’s out of the question. No, kelp, bull kelp at that, is what I need for a good strong net that will not break. Female kelp snaps too easily when dry then immediately wet. Plus it has large leaves that take time to remove and make into nets. Bull kelp dries strong, and only becomes stronger when wetted and dried numerous times. That’s why I’m working on a boat. This way I can get a good net for bigger fish, rather than the minnows in the tide pools. And I can get a seal even. The Zoras would sometimes hunt a seal from the Northern Reaches of Great Bay and eat the meat and blubber. I got to taste it and-”
“Link, I couldn’t do that to so cute a creature!”
“Zel, it could save your life. We need fat. And the seals have fat on them. We’ll slowly starve if we don’t get some fats soon.”
“But at the castle I never had to eat fat.”
“You like butter?” Link asked bluntly.
“Yes, of course.”
“Well butter isn’t a whole lot more than fat. Oils; fish, sun flower seed, and olive oils are other types of fat present in most of the meals in the castle, I’m betting. Fat carries flavor, and without it, food would taste as bland as the gruel we had for breakfast. So don’t tell me you didn’t like to eat fat. Just because you never had to resort to eating a piece of the trimmings off a roast doesn’t mean you didn’t have fat. So are you going to help me with this boat?” Link asked as he chipped away some more of the log he was hollowing out. He wasn’t entirely sure it would float on its own, so as an added safety measure, he decided he would tie the glassy airbladders of fish onto it. They would act like buoys, and hopefully help the boat to stay afloat.
He had been right. The boat did float, but only with the help of the isinglass buoys. Even then it lay pretty low in the water. Link brought back armfuls of the female kelp and taught Zelda how to weave it into nets. Once she got the hang of it, she was able to make then entire net. But it took a long time to do it right. During the time she was making it, Link made stone heads for his arrows and spears. He attached them to the straight wood shafts by making a notch in the butt of the arrowhead. The head had to be as small as Link’s first forefinger joint to balance the weight of it and the wood. The spear was much easier, in that it didn’t always have to be fitted with a stone head. By heating it in the fire and scraping it into a point, the fire would harden it enough to pierce a hide. But it did require much more force.
With the notch in the butt of the arrowhead, Link fitted it onto the shaft and kept it there with some kelp and pitch. The bow was the hardest to make.
Wood for a bow had to bend and not break. It could not be carved and it had to be solid. There were no rosewood bushes on the island, but there was orangewood. It had some of the resiliency of rosewood. Still, it could be used. Link went through several attempts with the branches of the orangewood before he had a usable bow. The string was, for the moment, kelp. The day he finished was the day of Real Meat.
All it took was one shot, a very well placed shot, to bring down a female seal. Living in the forest and knowing how to clean and skin game helped him here. He worked outside of the cave on Zelda’s request. She didn’t like blood and butchering. Link started by slitting its throat and letting it bleed. Then, with a single slit from the head to the anus, he began to disembowel it. If left in a body for too long, the gasses would cause the carcass to bloat, and ultimately spoil the meat. Link threw away almost nothing. The intestines could be used to store the animal’s rendered fat for later days, or waterproof casings for feet. The stomach could be used for a water bag or a container for oil. Or even braided into a line of material not so different from fishing line. But that’s what he would use the tendons for: fishing line and a bowstring. Sinew, when dried, became so strong, a good sharp knife had some trouble cutting it with one pass. The tendon of an animal was made up of many, many strands of sinew, and if cut out and dried, it would look like a brown stick. Link knew if he pounded at it, the fibers would start to separate into usable strands.
Link peeled away the skin of the seal, pleased at the amount of subcutaneous fat. It would be a rich night.