The desert sands whistled by her head as she stepped out into the sun. She tried to shield her eyes from the midday glare, but the dust particles reflected the bright light in every direction, including above her defending hands. It was a practice she performed every day without fail, despite its apparent ineffectiveness in such an environment.
Nabooru sighed at her futile gesture and allowed the scorching sands to trickle across her eyes as she headed in the direction of main barracks. She already knew, however, that most of the Gerudo guards were camped somewhere in Hyrule, awaiting word from Ganondorf, their king, to attack the supposedly impenetrable Hyrule Castle.
Ganondorf. How she hated that name. How she hated even allowing it to cross her mind. He may be the Lord of the Gerudo, but in her heart she could never bow down to such an evil man. Oh, sure, the Gerudo were thieves, but they weren’t evil. The birth of Ganondorf changed all that. If she could take all the power she possessed and give it up to put an end to the current King of Thieves, she would do so in a heartbeat.
But wishes never held any power. They merely made the situation more desperate.
"But wishes still exist," she realized sadly. "No matter how meaningless they may be, they still exist. If only one would come true…"
She arrived at the barracks of the Gerudo Fortress moments later and surveyed the main room. It was mostly vacant, as she had expected, except for a few women polishing their weapons or emptying their shoes of stinging sand. Nabooru shook her head as she thought of what these women were going to do during their "vacation" with Ganondorf gone.
Some were going to do their duty and guard the Fortress. Others were going to sneak off to nearby Gerudo Wasteland and even Hyrule villages so they could find a man and…ugh, she didn’t even want to think about it. The thought tempted her to recall something painful, and she didn’t wish to do that, especially right now.
Sometimes she wished that she were a little older than her current seventeen. She didn’t have enough experience to deal properly with the world, and being Ganondorf’s second-in-command didn’t help much either, especially with other women older than her under her authority. She knew why Ganondorf had chosen her, above all people, to be second-in-command, and she hated him for it.
Someday, somehow, she would keep the vow she made when she was fifteen. Someday, somehow…
Link’s stay at the castle was longer than he expected – three days longer, to be exact – but for some reason he didn’t mind at all, despite his earlier wish to leave as soon as possible.
When Zelda returned with the food for him and Navi, she also brought along a woman whom Zelda introduced as Impa. When he first saw the towering woman, Link’s first instinct was to run and hide. But Impa soon proved to be much more than he took her to be. For starters, the woman stared at him with a curious gaze that seemed to say, "So this is him, is it?" She also treated him as if he were on her same level, if not above it. At first she rarely spoke to him – she instead conversed with Zelda – but Link could tell that Impa had taken a liking to him.
But Impa couldn’t match the liking Zelda had taken to Link. The princess treated Link as if he were a part of her family and asked dozens of questions, many of them repeated so she could confirm his earlier answer. Of course, being the Princess of Hyrule, she couldn’t spend every possible moment with him, but for some reason Link couldn’t help feel she spent more time with him than she did with her royal duties.
The first day (or what was left of it) for Link and Zelda was dedicated mainly to learning everything they could about each other. Zelda asked the most questions, but Link felt he learned just as much about her as she did about him. Even so, the day wasn’t completely taken up by acquaintances. The two did have fun during their time together. Zelda taught Link several games including chess and croquet, and Link introduced Zelda to some interesting, little-known facts about the flowers in her garden.
When the day ended and the sun set over the small garden, Zelda offered Link one side of her enormous bed, but the Kokiri politely refused. He remembered lying on the inn’s bed with Malon and realized that Hylian beds weren’t as comfortable as the ones he was used to. He instead slept on the hill with the longer grass, which more or less felt like the lush grass back in the Lost Woods. The two parted for bed and slept peacefully that night.
The next day, Link and Zelda spent less time talking and more time enjoying themselves. But Zelda’s royal duties took up a little more of her time.
Because Link couldn’t leave the sanctuary of the garden, when Zelda was gone he spent his time either with Navi or being alone amongst the garden’s beauty. When he was with Navi, the two either talked about matters concerning the current situation or played chess. Chess was the only game Navi could play with Link, and even then with Link’s help to move the pieces.
She proved to be an adequate player, beating Link three times.
But the most memorable experience Link had on the second day of his stay wasn’t with Zelda or Navi.
During a moment when he was alone, Link took his ocarina and the piece of wrapping with the music written on it. As he stroked the instrument’s seven holes with the tips of his fingers, he eyed the mouthpiece quietly. Thoughts of Saria flooded into his mind almost immediately, including what she said about the instrument.
That it was alive.
He stared at it for a few moments longer before placing the mouthpiece to his lips and giving it a gentle blow.
He couldn’t recall hearing that much worse a sound.
"Having a little trouble with your ocarina?"
Link turned around to see whom it was. The voice was too deep to be Navi’s or even Zelda’s. He was surprised to see who the voice’s owner was. His face gaped in surprise, but Impa merely smiled back. She then slowly walked up to the Kokiri, who was sitting on the long-grass hill, and sat down beside him. He didn’t know what to do; this was the first time she had said anything to him.
"Is something wrong?" Impa asked.
"Something wr…oh, no, nothing’s wrong," Link stuttered with a smile, trying to appear polite. "My ocarina? Trouble? I guess you could say that. But not really. I just can’t play it, that’s all…"
"I see." Impa then leaned over to examine the small instrument in Link’s hands. "It’s a marvelous ocarina you have. I can tell a lot of love and care went into creating that one. The only equal I can think of is the Ocarina of Time."
Ocarina of Time? The name sounded interesting, but Link wasn’t in the mood for dawning on items with fascinating cognomens. He didn’t feel very comfortable around Impa – he didn’t know why; maybe it was because he didn’t know her that well – and he just wanted her to say what she had to say and leave him be. But something inside him told him to just allow her to stay by him for a little longer.
Link’s thoughts unknowingly transferred to his face, however, and Impa managed to read them like a book. "I can tell you’re a little scared of me. I can understand that. Most people who see me are. That’s one reason why the king chose me as Princess Zelda’s guardian, because of my intimidating appearance."
Link quickly tried to deny the obvious truth. "No, no. I didn’t mean…no, what I really mean is…actually…"
"Don’t make excuses," Impa interrupted. "They’re signs of weakness. You don’t see me making excuses about the way I appear. I accept it that’s that. End of story. But that’s beside the point. You can’t play your ocarina?"
"I…I guess not…"
"Sure you can! In fact, you just did! Don’t believe me? Think about this: most people who try to play ocarinas can’t even produce a sound from them! But you managed to produce a sound…it wasn’t a necessarily appealing sound, but it was a sound, nevertheless."
Link gave Impa a blank stare before looking back at the ocarina. First he was told it was alive, and now he was told that he had just played it! But if what she said was true, then he could play it. Maybe there was a chance for him to play it yet. Still, could such an awful sound be called playing an ocarina…?
"This is an interesting song," Impa commented as she gently slipped the piece of paper from Link’s hand and studied it closely. "Not too complex, yet quite involved. Did you write this?"
"Uh…no. A friend of mine wrote it."
"Well, then, I think you should do your friend a favor and learn this piece. Okay, you managed to produce a sound from the ocarina. Now try to produce a note from that sound. Let’s try…" she pointed to the first note on the piece of paper "…that note, F natural."
Link swallowed slightly. He couldn’t even play a simple C scale before and now Impa wanted him to play an F natural. Trying not to appear rude, he again lifted the ocarina to his lips, positioned his fingers on the right holes (he hoped, at least), and blew. The same terrible sound came out, only this time at a different pitch.
Disappointed, Link withdrew the mouthpiece. "I can’t…"
"What did I say about excuses?" Impa sternly warned before returning to a kinder tone. "Okay, try this. When you play the note, don’t think about the note. Trust me, doing that creates tension, and tension isn’t what the instrument needs to feel. It needs to feel calmness from the player. No, don’t visualize the note. Visualize something else, and let the ocarina do the work."
Link couldn’t help but feel that Impa had just told him exactly what Saria had told him, that the instrument was alive. It wasn’t the same wording or intention, but the underlying meaning was still there. He looked at the ocarina again. Picture something other than the note? Does such a bizarre idea actually work?
Why not? He was a Kokiri outside the Lost Woods, so anything was possible…
Link again lifted the mouthpiece to his lips and positioned his fingers. He then inhaled, but this time he did as Impa instructed. He thought of something else other than the note being played. At first he couldn’t find anything, but then a worthy image did cross his mind. He smiled in his mind when he saw Saria’s face stare back at him warmly. How he wanted to reach out and take Saria’s hand, the hand that had seen him through so many hard times with Mido. How he wanted to caress those lips, the lips that owned many a kind word of reassurance…
"The ocarina is alive…" Saria said.
The instrument began to glow…Link blew…
It was the most beautiful note he had ever heard. From his own lips, at least…
"There, I told you that you could do it!" Impa’s voice declared, interrupting Link’s thoughts.
The Kokiri stared at Zelda’s guardian for a moment before looking back at the instrument. He couldn’t deny that he had actually played that note, but he couldn’t dismiss the other thing that had happened. Did the instrument actually glow? Was there actually substance to Saria’s words…?
"I’m sure with a little practice," Impa smiled, again interrupted Link’s thoughts, "you’ll be able to play your friend’s song in no time. Now, there’s something I need to tell you, Link." That was the first time Impa had spoken Link’s name. "I came here so I could teach you something, and that something just so happens to be a song."
That caught Link’s attention. He remained silent, which urged Impa to continue.
"You see, recently in Princess Zelda’s dream, the young man that is you knows a certain song. This song is very well known song within the kingdom, but everyone outside the Royal Family is forbidden to play or transcribe it. Yet in Princess Zelda’s dream, you somehow know the song. I feel that it’s an indication that you must learn the song. But do you know it, let me ask first?"
Link shook his head.
"Then I’m going to teach it to you. It’s simple, really. It’s actually a lullaby. We call it Zelda’s Lullaby, after Princess Zelda’s great-grandmother of the same name. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll teach you the first few notes to start you off; I want you to know them fluently by the time you leave. I’ll write the rest of the song down and give it to you so you could learn it wherever you’re going. Okay?"
Link couldn’t help but acknowledge Impa’s instructions with a nod of the head.
"Good. Okay, the first note is a B natural. Just play it like you did with the F…"
Ganondorf snarled when the woman called Impa disappeared down a nearby hallway. He didn’t particularly like anyone in the castle, but he completely loathed anyone tied closely to the Princess Zelda. Although he hadn’t even met the brat in person yet, he could tell there was something about her that he didn’t like. Maybe it was the sickeningly pure qualities she was well known for. Maybe it was her uncanny abilities to win over the people of Hyrule.
Or maybe it was because he felt she was hiding something…
Although he hadn’t seen anything of Princess Zelda, he could tell something was up because of her guardian, who was disturbed for some reason. Ganondorf could tell the woman called Impa was a Sheikah, and he knew only two things greatly troubled a Sheikah. One was not fulfilling given duties, and the other was the possibility of a prophecy being realized.
And since this Impa obviously performed her obligation of protecting the princess without a single flaw, it had to be something to do with a prophecy.
"And at such a crucial time!" he growl in his mind. "When I’m about to be the ruler of all the world! Blast it, I don’t want to search for it until I’ve taken the castle, but if there’s a possible prophecy running amuck I may have to start earlier than I anticipated!"
As he turned a corner, Ganondorf realized he was more worried than he had ever been in his entire lifetime…well, maybe not. Maybe more worried than he had ever been since then…but that was beyond the point. Prophecies were rare occurrences and they usually only affected certain people that played a key role in fate.
And since he was about to rule the world, he would undoubtedly play a key role…
Making sure no one was looking, Ganondorf took his armored fist and punched the stone wall. The gesture left a crack deep and extensive enough to insert his fat index finger through it…
The third day of Link’s stay was the day that changed everything.
After his usual – for some reason he couldn’t help but thick of it as "usual" – his usual morning playtime with Zelda, Link sat by himself on the long grass hill with his ocarina in hand. Zelda was tending to some of her royal duties, Navi was sleeping somewhere in the garden, and Impa…well, he never did learn her behavior, even after yesterday’s unexpected meeting.
Even now the confrontation echoed in Link’s mind. He still couldn’t believe he had learned to play the ocarina…and that beautifully as well! But he knew he couldn’t take all the credit. There was Impa, of course, for teaching him that little "trick," and then there was Saria with her statement about the instrument being alive. Yet there was one other "person" Link gave credit to: the ocarina itself.
The more he thought about it, the more he became convinced of Saria’s remark. How else could he go from not being able to play a simple scale to being able to play the first few notes of a forbidden royal song…?
Speaking of the forbidden song, Link wondered what was so special about it. Yesterday Impa had made him play the same three-note rhythm over and over until she felt satisfied. She then took the piece of paper with Saria’s song on it and wrong on the other side the notes to Zelda’s Lullaby. She then left Link to learn them at his convenience.
Zelda’s Lullaby didn’t seem as complex as Saria’s song, so he didn’t know what the big fuss over it was. Why was it forbidden to transcribe and play such a simple tune? Or was there a hidden depth to the song that only people connected to the Royal Family knew about?
For a brief moment, Link wished he were a Hylian so he could understand…
"What are your secrets?" Link thought as he stared at the notes on the piece of paper. "Why are you considered so special?"
Deciding to find out, Link lifted the Fairy Ocarina to his lips and began to play the few notes he had learned from Impa. As he reached the end of the little bit he knew, he considered trying the next few notes when he looked up and saw Princess Zelda standing at the doorway to her bedroom.
Immediately Link removed the ocarina from his mouth and stood up. He was about to say hello when he noticed the look on her face. There was a temporary expression of surprise in her eyes, but the lasting facial cast was one of grave importance. Zelda had come with news of some sort, and Link couldn’t tell if he was or wasn’t going to like it…
"He played the Royal Family song," Zelda thought with amazement, "just like in my dream. He really is the one I’ve been dreaming of."
Her surprise was short-lived, however. He quickly recovered her princess-like composure and smiled to greet Link. But even her smile couldn’t hide the fact that she had an air of seriousness around her. Link’s facial expression made it clear that he knew she had something important to tell her.
Hesitating slightly, Zelda walked up to the Kokiri slowly as she tightened her grip on the large book tucked under her left arm.
When she reached Link she urged him to sit down. When he did so she sat down beside him and placed the tome in her lap.
"What’s that?" Link asked.
"It’s a book of Hylian and world legends," Zelda answered as she opened it and flipped a few pages. "I had Impa look through the castle library for anything related to your Kokiri Emerald. She didn’t come up with much until she found this book. It deals with many of today’s famous myths and legends, like the Sacred Triforce."
Triforce. She said it again. "Triforce?" Link asked.
"Oh, I never did explain it to you, did I?" Zelda inquired as she looked into Link’s questioning eyes. "I guess now’s a better time than never."
Zelda closed the book and set it aside before turning to Link, making herself comfortable, and beginning her tale:
"Long before life began, long before Time even existed, the world was nothing but a single point of chaos. It’s very hard to describe what it was like, but nothing that we know today existed then. There was nothing, not even ideology: no right or wrong, good or evil. Sometimes I feel that in that chaos was the perfect world, but I won’t get into that.
"Anyway, in the Great Heavens, three great goddesses decided to change the chaos that was the world. Today they are known simply as the Three Goddesses. I’m sure even the Kokiri know about the Three Goddesses: Din, Goddess of Power; Farore, Goddess of Courage; and Nayru, Goddess of Wisdom. You know about them, right?"
Link nodded, although he only partly knew about them. He had heard the names mentioned several times by Saria after her private meetings with the Great Deku Tree, but he had no idea about their importance. And he only used them to curse. He would have to watch his tongue from now on…
"Well, these Three Goddesses," Zelda continued, "descended from the heavens to create Time for a new world. The goddess Din used her strong flaming arms to take the chaos that was the world and shape it. Eventually she shaped the chaos into the bare red earth of the world. Nayru then poured her wisdom upon the earth, and the spirits of law was born. Along with that law came philosophy, morality, and, of course, wisdom. Finally, Farore’s rich soul covered the earth and gave birth to all forms of life. This life would uphold the law created by Nayru.
"I believe your Great Deku Tree was one of the forms of life created by Farore."
For some reason, that statement didn’t surprise Link. Taking into consideration what Zelda had told him and what he knew about the Great Deku Tree, it was easy to realize that the mighty tree was created by the gods so he could create the forest.
"Anway, when the Three Goddesses had finished their tasks, they departed for the heavens. They entered the Great Heavens at a single point, and it was at this point that the Sacred Triforce was created. The Triforce is a magnificent relic that embodies the three doctrines of the Three Goddesses: Power, Courage, and Wisdom. It became the basis for the world’s providence and was given to Hyrule for safekeeping. The province where the Triforce stood became sacred, and eventually became known as the Sacred Realm."
Zelda paused so she could catch her breath. While she did so, Link thought about what she had said. The legend of the Triforce sounded intriguing, but he couldn’t help wonder what it had to do with what she had discovered about the Kokiri Emerald. He was about to ask that question when Zelda actually answered it. She reached for the book again, opened it, and pointed to a page with, of all things, Link’s Emerald! Link gaped in amazement.
"You’re probably wondering why I took the time to tell you this story. It’s because I believe it’s not a story at all. I believe the Triforce is real…and your emerald plays a major role in the story. It’s a Spiritual Stone."
Link’s blank stare turned into a confused gaze. "Spiritual Stone?"
"There’s a little more to the legend. You see, in the early days of the Triforce, there were many greedy men who wanted to hold the essence of the gods in their hands and thus steal the sacred relic. To prevent this, six people were appointed as Sages by the gods and they sealed the Sacred Realm, along with the Triforce. The entrance to the realm is a closely guarded secret, and it’s well protected. The entrance can, however, be partially unlocked by three powerful gems, the Spiritual Stones.
"So you see, Link, you’re holding one of the keys to the Sacred Realm."
For some reason, Link didn’t feel anything special. He expected he would feel overwhelmed that he held the key to probably the most powerful relic in the world, but he felt nothing but curiosity. Maybe he had to actually be a Hylian to feel such emotions. Even so, all Link could ask was,
"So where are the other two?"
"The legend says that after creating the seal on the Sacred Realm, the Sages hid the Spiritual Stones in Hyrule. One was hidden in a deep labyrinth of the gods – I assume that’s the Lost Woods – another in a fiery beast of stone, and the last beneath the tears of the heavens. I talked about this with Impa, and we both concluded that the ‘fiery beast of stone’ has to be Death Mountain, the active volcano northeast of Hyrule Castle New City. We don’t know what the ‘tears of the heavens’ are yet, however."
"So what are you going to do?" Link asked.
Zelda’s smile waned slightly. "We’re going to get them, of course. Link, you remember Ganondorf. You remember me telling you that he’s here for something other than a peace treaty? He could be here to find the Sacred Realm so he could get his hands of the Sacred Triforce. We can’t let that happen. We have to make sure he can’t open the Sacred Realm, so we have to get the Spiritual Stones before he does."
Is that why the Great Deku Tree was cursed? Was it that man, Ganondorf that had cursed the mighty deity with the parasite Gohma? Did Ganondorf kill the Great Deku Tree just so he could get his hands on the Spiritual Stone that Link now held in his hands? Link couldn’t believe it, that the great tree he loved was sentenced to die just for one man’s greed. But there was no other explanation.
Even though he hadn’t even met the man, Link now hated the King of Thieves with all his heart. And that was enough for him to consider Zelda’s idea of finding all the Spiritual Stones.
Still, he couldn’t ignore one thing. "But we already have one Stone, so he can’t get into the Sacred Realm without it. Why is it necessary to collect the other two?"
"Because the more Stones we hold, the more leverage we have against Ganondorf. Who knows? He might collect the other Stones and then steal the one we have somehow. We can’t take that chance."
"I guess you’re right," Link said, although he quietly thought, "But at the same time, we could be doing all the work for him." He then added, "So how are you going to get the second Stone?"
Princess Zelda’s eyes seemed to widen before she diverted them from his gaze. "I…" she said quietly, "I want to ask you to get it. Will you…Link?"
When she first said those words, Link thought she was joking. But the pleading tone in her voice was a real one and Link felt reality slap him in the face. She really did want him to go and collect the Spiritual Stone in Death Mountain, and he was pretty sure she’d want him to get the third one if she knew where it was.
He could refuse, of course. She was only asking him, after all, and he so badly wanted to refuse so he could just go back home. But something told him not to refuse; in fact, it seemed to grind him inside, urging him not to refuse. He kept questioning the feeling of why he should accept, but the only answer he received was the same burning sensation.
Finally, he broke down. "I will."
Zelda looked up and gazed at Link’s side-glancing face. Tears had formed in her eyes; the question had obviously been difficult for her to ask. She smiled.
"Thank you," the whispered before leaning over and placing a gentle kiss on Link’s left cheek.
The night was a cool one, but Impa was sweating all the same. She wasn’t sweating out of fear or anxiety, but mainly out of haste. She wanted to be present when the young boy Link and his fairy Navi were leaving for Death Mountain. Zelda had arranged for them to leave in the dead of night so they wouldn’t be noticed, and they were going to leave in a few moments.
She didn’t want to miss seeing off this young man, this young man who undoubtedly had some ties with fate…
But she first had to return the book to the castle library before it was missed. Tucking the tome under her arm tightly, Impa broke into a quiet yet swift run. She arrived at the library in record time. Making sure there weren’t any guards around, the Sheikah entered the library as quietly as possible and tiptoed towards the shelf where she had found the book. She replaced the volume in its proper shelf, breathed a sigh of relief, turned, and left the library.
As she did, she couldn’t help but notice her sweating and heavy breathing. "Why am I sweating like this? I’m a Sheikah…is it because of that boy, I wonder?"
When she had completely disappeared down the dark corridors, Ganondorf stepped out of the shadows of the library, sneered in Impa’s direction, and reached for the book she had just placed back on the shelf…