Once you’ve crossed the Tanagar Canyon into the northwest of Hyrule, you’ve entered Rito territory. The temperate Tabantha region is their homestead, but they maintain the frigid Hebra mountains to the north as well.
Their largest village is quite vertical, the central roads built to wind around several enormous rock columns that rise out of Totori Lake. There are foot paths from the cliffs below for the sake of flightless travelers, but it’s a steep walk nonetheless
and unfortunately, horses do not hike, so Cass has to leave his at the stables below.
The village is no less busy and bustling than any other commercial center, but its narrow construction makes everything so much more crowded, and with people pushing past him not just from the sides but also flying over his head, it’s frankly overwhelming.
Basically, Cass is actually relieved to find the person he came to meet is not currently in town.
Balthazar isn’t far, of course, just down at the flight range, a natural place for any Rito warrior to be. Cass is warmly greeted by the Rito chieftain and invited to rest until Balthazar returns, but he asks, tentatively, if it would be inappropriate to go meet him anyways.
Certainly not, but he’d have to hike back down to his horse and ride there. It’ll only be a couple more hours until Balthazar returns himself.
But Cass simply unfolds his paraglider (which is absolutely delightful to the Rito), and sails down from the flight deck towards the Hebra border.
(Yes, he will have to hike back regardless, but he just wanted Out of the crowd, and the breeze is wonderful.)
It’s too far to make it in one go, but at least he doesn’t land in the lake. Cass touches down on the grass by the road he would’ve ridden, and is immediately thrown forward by an enormous rush of wind from behind him.
He spins around, coming face-to-face with a Rito’s beaming grin.
“What–” Balthazar points down, “is that.”
Cass blinks, following his inquisitive gesture.
“…paraglider,” he answers as it’s yanked out of his hands.
“You can fly,” Balthazar crows, holding the paraglider up high, marvelling at it.
“Well…” Cass smiles shyly, moving his hand in a slow downward arc, “only in one direction.”
“Unless you catch an updraft,” Balthazar flashes him a grin, “am I right?”
“-yes, true…” Cass is rather awestruck at Balthazar’s sheer amazement (he has real wings). They haven’t even introduced themselves. In fact, he’s just assumed this is Balthazar, but wouldn’t the Rito Champion be busy with training?
Cass steps a little closer.
“Are you…Balthazar?” he asks, trying to get into his line of sight. “I was going to meet you at the flight range.”
“Great, I’ll see you there–” Without even a glance, Balthazar launches himself skyward with a powerful gust of wind and
Cass is absolutely bewildered with– whatever just happened, but Balthazar’s delighted mood is infectious, and Cass can’t help smiling as he jogs after his “thief.”
The flight range is an enormous expanse that straddles the border between Tabantha and the base of the Hebra mountain range. It’s a place for light and intensive training, instruction, and recreation all in one, with obstacle courses, target practice for bows and spears, and natural updrafts where even the youngest Rito can safely learn their basics.
The alleged Rito Champion has the decency to land not too far in, still laughing joyfully when Cass catches up to him.
“Incredible!” With a flourish, Balthazar finally hands the paraglider back. “Who makes these? Hylians?”
“Yes, we developed them at the castle-” Cass quickly packs it away (for its own safety).
“I wonder if they could be improved with flight feathers, or an adjustment to the shape for better aerodynamics,” Balthazar muses out loud, wandering off in thought before suddenly spinning back around to Cass. “Yes, I’m sure of it! Let me design you a new one, it’ll be the best flight of your life!”
Cass just stares for a moment, trying to keep up. This guy’s whole personality just moves– too fast. They still haven’t introduced themselves!
“You…are Balthazar, right?” Cass tries to slow it down, but he can’t help a wry smile.
“I am indeed,” Balthazar crosses his arms and straightens up. “And you’re Castiel?”
“Yes,” Cass sighs, relieved. “Oh, good.”
“You didn’t have to come all this way, really,” Balthazar takes a seat on the grass, stretching out his legs. Perhaps he does have a less intense mode. “I would’ve been home in time for supper.”
“Yes, I heard. I–…”
Cass trails off, realizing he doesn’t actually have any good reason to give for intruding on Balthazar’s training.
Balthazar seems nonplussed, at least, folding his arms behind his head and laying back in the grass as the silence stretches on…
Finally, his face rather hot from embarrassment, Cass gives a stiff, awkward shrug.
“…it’s quieter here,” he admits.
“Mmm-hm,” Balthazar hums in agreement, but doesn’t otherwise move.
Cass sits next to him quietly for a couple more minutes, in confusion this time.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt you,” he says, carefully, as though he might be doing it right now. “If you were-”
“Oh no, I wasn’t training,” Balthazar answers nonchalantly. “I’d be out with Vah Medoh but I knew you were coming and I didn’t know you could fly.”
“You didn’t have to come all this way,” Balthazar just said, and yet, because he was expecting Cass, he was waiting…
“…here?” It slips out by accident and Cass feels so rude, but
Balthazar just cracks an eye open to give him a quick smile.
“It’s quieter here,” he says, then settles back again.
Cass is still red, but… less.
He tries to sit back and relax, as Balthazar seems to be doing so capably. Slowly, Cass stretches out next to him.
The grass is warm from the sunlight, and a light, lovely breeze washes over him from down the mountains and across the valley. The few Rito who are still training so late in the afternoon are hypnotic to watch.
Cass almost falls asleep. He’s had a long trip.
Before he knows it, Balthazar is up and tapping his shoulder. He points skyward at a group of Rito flying in formation from Hebra back towards the village, and with that, all the Rito at the range begin to make their way back as well.
“It’s not suppertime until everyone’s home,” Balthazar explains as Cass stands and brushes off his clothes.
Cass is rather mortified to hear that. As an important guest, he knows he counts with “everyone,” but without his horse he’s going to have to make the two hour hike again.
“–you don’t have to wait for me,” Cass insists quietly.
“Of course I don’t,” Balthazar cocks his head, a little confused. “We’ll fly back together.”
“We’ll– oh…” Cass pauses. “Are you sure? It’s a long way.”
and very high. If Balthazar can’t keep him airborne, Cass’ll go straight into the lake.
“Of course I’m sure,” Balthazar smiles, unruffled. “I’m not the Champion for nothing.”
He stops, blinking.
Did Cass… flinch?
Balthazar ignores it, waving an arm cheerily. “Come on!”
So Cass unpacks his paraglider one more time and nods, and Balthazar launches them both high into the air, high enough for Cass to make it across the field and halfway over the lake before he realizes he’s too low.
But Balthazar just dives down below him and shoots him right back up, the sheer rush nearly stopping Cass’ heart. He’s ridden updrafts before and he never gets tired of it. It really does feel like…flying.
He can’t imagine Balthazar found gliding half as incredible as this.
Dinner is one long citywide banquet, the food trail winding its way from the chieftain’s meeting hall at the top of the village all the way around and down to the bottom where most non Rito guests stay. There’re people cooking in every other home, passing the food out and around while others move up and down the trail, making sure everyone gets a little of everything.
Eating close to the village heads, Balthazar becomes much more social, if only because so many people are talking to him.
Cass gets even quieter. The cacophony of business hours is nothing compared to what dinnertime shows him.
He’s a Hylian, raised inside the Castle proper. He’s never looked his king in the eyes, he wouldn’t dare.
But he watches person after person approach the chief throughout the meal and just…talk. They’re respectful, of course, but the kind of respect one shows a loving parent rather than a ruler. They stand while the elders stay seated. They joke. They only seem to bow sarcastically.
Nor was there any elaborate ceremony to Cass’ arrival in the village, even as an envoy of the King of Hyrule. The chief introduced him publicly before the meal began, and then…
well, they ate.
Cass wants to like it, so very badly, but it’s just too much at once. He’s afraid of such casual behaviour in the face of authority. He can’t even seem to get a question about the food in edgewise.
If it weren’t for Balthazar putting some on his plate from time to time, he’d probably just have gone hungry.
Likewise, Cass expects to be assigned an Official place to sleep, and while there are quarters for important guests, Balthazar simply jumps in to suggest Cass sleep in his home. They’re the ones with business together, after all.
So long as Cass has no objections, that seems to be just…fine.
Like most individual homes, Balthazar’s roost doesn’t normally have a foot path to it, but the Rito have rollout bridges that can be connected at will, saving Cass the trouble of flying even to bed.
As the sun sets, the bustling Rito village slowly simmers down. Balthazar brews them a warm drink over the fire, then kindly shutters his windows to keep out the chill.
Cass busies himself setting up his hammock, then awkwardly plops himself back onto the floor, his guest quilt wrapped tightly around his shoulders as he sips his drink.
Balthazar waits a few minutes for conversation that is clearly not forthcoming, but just as he stands again Cass lays down his mug and speaks up.
“Actually, I–” he reaches for his luggage, carefully extracting a thin, finely wrapped package, stamped with the Hyrulian royal crest, and holding it out to Balthazar.
“This is…” he clears his throat. “His Royal Majesty, Rhoam, King of Hyrule, sends his deepest regards to the chosen Champion of the Rito. As a token of, I hope–”
Cass bites his tongue and rolls his eyes, sighing sharply faster than he can help it. He had a speech prepared, but it was supposed to happen out there, in the official ceremony meant to accompany his arrival. How is he supposed to conduct public business in private?
In front of the assembled Rito, he was an envoy of the Hyrulian King. That he’s been trained to do. Now he’s just a personal guest of the Rito Champion, who has already stripped down to a plain tunic and trousers and is regarding Cass with some amusement as he argues with himself.
“It’s a gift,” Cass frowns, then straightens up pointedly, pushing the package into Balthazar’s hands. “They say it’s tradition amongst the Champions. A symbol of… I mean, to symbolize our partnership and unity. It’s an honour to meet you, finally.”
Balthazar tries to be gentle as he unwraps it. Inside is a beautiful light blue scarf, a small icon of Vah Medoh embroidered in white at each end. He recognizes the design; Cass’ tunic is the same, his collar embroidered to resemble the Master Sword.
With a flourish, Balthazar throws the scarf over his shoulder and around his neck.
“It’s lovely, thank you,” he smiles warmly at Cass. “It’s good to meet you, too.”
He means it, really. Given the rigid social structure within Hyrule Castle and the fact that Cass is the Hylian Champion - also known as The Hero who wields the sealing sword - Balthazar had reasonably expected someone a lot more pompous, if not outright insufferable.
Rather than someone who can’t keep his opinions to himself, however, Cass can’t seem to decide what to say at all, quietly shutting his mouth almost every time he opens it and leaving Balthazar to guess not just what he’s thinking but also what he was about to say.
It’s frustrating, but understandable, and given the alternative Balthazar wouldn’t dare actually complain about it.
At least not on Cass’ very first day here.
So, really, he’s glad to meet him overall.
“I have gifts for your elders, as well,” Cass murmurs, almost to himself. “I can’t believe I forgot…”
“They’ll live, I promise you,” Balthazar chuckles, waving a hand. “We can stop by tomorrow before we leave.”
“–yes!…” Cass brightens visibly for a split second, then settles down again, clearing his throat. “Where, um, where is the Divine Beast now?”
“Southwards,” Balthazar reaches for his Sheikah Slate, pulling up the map. “Towards the Gerudo Highlands, actually. It was partially unearthed from inside the mountains.”
“Yes-” Cass nods enthusiastically. “I visited the site many years ago. So it hasn’t been moved yet…”
“You…” Balthazar leans closer suddenly, scrutinizing his face much more intently than he had before. Cass leans slightly back, just out of instinct.
Balthazar rubs his chin. “Yes…” he murmurs slowly, “I have seen you before. There was a Hylian child at the excavation site once, with the Royal Guard. That was you, wasn’t it?”
“–yes,” Cass is a little stunned (and a little red). “My father is captain of the Royal Guard; we toured all the excavation sites. That was…a long time ago now…”
Balthazar chuckles softly. “You don’t remember me, then.”
“Well–” Cass is trying, “yes, there were a number of Rito children about, but…always flying, off in the distance, so…”
“But, I think…” He bites his thumb, frowning in concentration. “I think I do remember you…”
“I’m touched!” Balthazar coos.
“…-well, maybe,” Cass adds quickly, suddenly worried Balthazar might ask for specifics, but he simply laughs.
“Please, I’m only teasing,” he assures Cass. “You’re right, it was very long ago. How interesting that you actually met our Divine Beast sooner than I did.”
“Oh, if only–…” Cass sighs wistfully. “I was never even on board. Of course, we didn’t have the controls at the time anyways, so…”
“But you do now,” Balthazar prompts him. That’s why Cass is here, after all.
“Yes!” Cass reaches for his own Slate as though he’d been waiting for exactly this question. “You’re familiar with the Sheikah Towers, of course- well, our Slates also function as controls for the Divine Beasts! We’ve been at a loss all this time as to how you would actually pilot them– you know all this, of course, but–”
He takes a breath, but doesn’t stop. “A few months ago we located the actual plans for the Divine Beasts’ interiors. Apart from the gate and the main control unit - which I’m sure you’ve seen - there are five further terminals that must be activated to initiate functionality, plus a guidance stone - like those in the Towers - which hold the maps for each Divine Beast. I believe once we’ve registered your Sheikah Slate at the gate, the other terminals will become available for activation, but of course we couldn’t say for sure without trying firsthand.”
Balthazar is stunned; Cass is suddenly so animated, like he’s been saving his energy waiting for this conversation.
“Hold on-” Balthazar prods him. “‘We’? The Royal Guard is doing this research?”
“–oh, er…” Cass laughs nervously, his pace slowing. “No, of course not, we merely supervise as security, but I… Well, I’ve always been nominally in the Royal Guard - because my father is, you know-… But I used to– before I was chosen, I was actually in the research division proper, so this used to be…”
“So that’s why you were at the dig site,” Balthazar jokes. “You must’ve been quite skilled for your age!”
Cass laughs, a little more genuinely. “Yes, it was a long time ago… I’m still lucky enough to be kept up to date, but I have…more important duties now, of course.”
“Like activating the Divine Beasts?” Balthazar nudges him encouragingly, and Cass looks up at him with a smile.
“Yes, you’re right,” he nods. “Being allowed to come here, to see the results of so many years’ work, finally–”
Cass smiles softly down at his Slate. “I’m– really excited. You must be–?”
“I can’t wait,” Balthazar assures him. “The Championship trials got everyone worked up, but with Vah Medoh grounded there hasn’t been anything to do since. I am excited to be training again. I can’t be your support if I’m not caught up, now can I?”
“-aha…” Cass laughs briefly in surprise, a warm feeling sneaking up from his stomach as Balthazar nudges him playfully.
“I’m not the Champion for nothing.”
Was that really…just an offhand remark, then?
It’s true, ever since he was revealed as the Champion, Cass has been through intensive training to make up his lack of combat experience. He most certainly excels amongst the Royal Guard now.
But it doesn’t change the fact he was the only Champion chosen by simple “fate.”
The other four, like Balthazar, were tried and tested for their skills in competition with their peers, all for the honour of being the chosen Hero’s “support.”
Cass certainly wasn’t expecting outright resentment (he is a Hylian, you have to be subtle about it), but to be readily accepted as a fellow warrior, an equal, or even
“I can’t be your support if I’m not caught up, now can I?”
Was that a joke, or…?
It doesn’t matter, Cass tries to convince himself. Balthazar has done nothing but welcome and accommodate him, enthusiastically so. Even if he does think less of Cass’ status, he won’t show it.
Maybe that’s the Rito way. They’re partners now, in fighting the Calamity no less. They have to be a united front, no matter what…or else.
They turn in not long after dark. Balthazar helps Cass into his hammock (strung quite high on the ceiling), and passes him his blankets.
“Do tell me if you get cold,” he insists, pointedly holding up his feathered arms. “I’m certainly not going to notice.”
“I will, thank you…” Cass murmurs tiredly.
He watches Balthazar climb into his own bed and wave him goodnight with a sweet smile. Cass smiles back, and curls himself up tight. The down quilt is luxuriously soft, and the hammock hugs him just so. Exhaustion washes over him, his several days’ journey beginning to feel like a dream.
This is the freest he’s ever been, all on his own, far away from the castle for something other than combat. He’s finally met another Champion. There are only five of them in the whole world who share that burden, and Cass is so hopeful the others will be as kind as Balthazar, that he’ll have some true companions at last.
“I’m not the Champion for nothing.”
Of course, Cass wouldn’t be a castle-bred Hylian without some anxiety over who might secretly hate him.
It’s for the best, he decides. He’d probably get homesick otherwise.