Kaepora Gaebora wanted to wretch as he tore his beak into the field mouse he had just caught. Oh, sure, he was an Owl, and he had grown used to the taste of uncooked flesh in his lifetime of being an Owl, but right now he had no motivation or desire to enjoy the mouse, leading to a disgust in the small creature’s taste. He was in a very bad mood right now, and he would remain in that mood until he found Link.
And even then he might still be very angry…
“Foolish boy!” he mumbled through his beak for the hundredth time. “How could he just wander off like that? Leaving like that without even leaving a sign of where he was going? For all I know, he could be dead! And my powers won’t even help me! Why do they have to be so unpredictable? And why can’t they help me at the most critical of times…like now? When I get my claws on that boy, he is going to…”
Then he remembered the fact that Link was a Mage-Bound, a Magi-Con, and he fell silent. His temper could wait. He had to locate Link before he did anything related to his Mage-Bound powers. Mage-Bounds were very unpredictable with their powers, and since the Faria Garuia said that Link possessed the power of the gods, Link could be especially dangerous.
By Din’s Fire, why didn’t he tell Link about his powers when he had the chance? Why? Why…?
Because it was a good idea not to at the time, he realized.
But that was then, this was now.
And the situation was getting worse every day.
Although his visions wouldn’t yield Link’s location, they did show a dark future concerning Hyrule Castle. Kaepora knew it had something to do with the Gerudo and Ganondorf, but he had no idea what the desert tribe had planned. And according to his magic, something awful could be avoid if and only if he intervened. The “if” had a deadline, of course, which made the situation even more of a burden. He had to find Link, but he also couldn’t let the darkest of circumstances befall Hyrule.
That was the vow he had made when he wasn’t an Owl, and he had carried that vow over as an Owl. He would ultimately do what was best, despite his desires and, sometimes, his better judgment.
Oh, why did Link have to leave him…?
The morning was a crisp and fresh one. A brisk, cool wind made the warmth of the sun seem tame and timid. The fields of Lon Lon Ranch danced in a wave-like waltz that was captivating and mystical. Morning birds sang their accompaniments for those who were privileged enough to listen to them. The signs were right for a good day, and yet emotions other than happiness were also present within the natural mixture.
Link was feeling one such emotion, and that was sadness.
It was two days after the party during which he had danced with Malon, and the day he would be leaving her. He had no idea whether he would leave her forever, but because of who he was he couldn’t rule out the possibility. He was a Kokiri, she was a Hylian. The two worlds were never meant to cross each other, yet they did because of a remarkable and probably cruel twist of fate.
But did that mean he never had to see her again…?
Link didn’t know, although she prayed to the Three Goddesses that he wished he did…
He was at the edge of Epona’s pen, alone, leaning against the outside of the fence, watching Epona graze. The young horse seemed a little less energetic than she usually was. Maybe that’s because her “mother,” Malon, was also acting a little less energetic today.
When the slow dance between them had ended last night, Malon had held him for a few moments longer before finally and reluctantly letting him go. Her eyes had been filled with glassy pools of feelings that she couldn’t suppress at that moment. Before Link could’ve said anything, Malon had turned around and left the room, making her way to her room, where she had spent the remainder of the night. When she had done that, he didn’t know if he had done something wrong. The possibility had haunted him that night and he couldn’t sleep at all.
The next day, however, Malon had changed into her old self again, as if the previous night hadn’t even happened. The two of them had spent the rest of the day, yesterday, doing basically what they had been doing since Link’s arrival on the farm, only with Link’s hand healed he could do a lot more than before. By the time the afternoon had arrived, Link had started to think that last night had been nothing more than a bizarre mistake of some sort.
But Malon had proved him wrong that evening, last night. She had said goodnight early that evening, so she had gone to bed earlier than Link. After Link had spent some time with Talon, getting ready for the journey ahead, he had decided to hit the sack as well. When he had passed Malon’s bedroom, he had heard the faint, gentle, muffled sound of crying. The only person it could’ve been was Malon. It was then that Link had realized that Malon’s feelings for him were far from a mistake.
Now here he was, ready to leave but not ready to say goodbye to Malon. He once wished he could take her with him, but that would be selfish and stupid and dangerous. Where he was going, he might never come back. He couldn’t do that to her. Not Malon…
He gazed at Epona for a moment longer before realizing something: he hadn’t attempted to call her since his embarrassing singing attempt. He knew Epona’s Song by heart on the ocarina, yet he hadn’t tried it out yet. What was wrong with him…?
“I wonder if it will work?” Link wondered as he reached for the ocarina in his pouch.
He gave Epona and then the ocarina a good, long stare before he finally raised the instrument to his lips and started to play Epona’s Song. By now, he believed he could never play the songs he had learned as good as the original composers. In other words, he believed he couldn’t play Epona’s Song as good as Malon could sing it. But he was surprised to find himself coming awfully close to the sound of the original song. The notes were soft and elegant, and his rhythm was, for lack of a better word, perfect. He could feel the energy of the song flowing through the instrument…and through him, as well.
He played the song with his eyes closed to feel the full affect of the song, so when he opened his eyes he was surprised to find Epona standing right in front of him on the other side of the gate. He froze in amazement as the young horse lifted its head up, as if asking Link to take the honor of touching her. Even Link stopped playing the ocarina, the horse remained where she was and still presented the privilege.
“By Nayru’s Love…” Link thought as he lowered the ocarina from his lips. “I’ve done it…”
Deciding to take the chance, Link gently reached out with his right hand and touched Epona’s face. The young horse didn’t even flinch when he felt the Kokiri’s hand. This was very different from the first time he had touched her. This time, he felt a connection with the horse, something he had never felt with a creature of the forest before. Was this the mutual feeling that people had with horses? Was this why horses allowed Hylians to ride on their backs?
If it was, he thought he understood…
“Just a pity you weren’t here to see this, Malon,” Link said out loud.
“What do you mean, Fairy Boy? You think I would miss something like this?”
While keeping his hand on Epona, Link turned around and found Malon standing behind him, smiling her usual smile. He smiled weakly back.
“How long were you standing there?” he asked.
“Since you started playing your ocarina,” she answered as she walked up to him, stood next to him, and started to pet Epona. “You know, during your entire time here, you didn’t get the chance to play your ocarina for me. But now that I’ve heard you play my song with it…and that you’ve managed to get Epona to come to you, I don’t think I need you to play it for me. That alone was enough.”
She petted Epona for a moment in silence before asking, “So when are you leaving?”
“Sometime after lunch,” Link answered.
Without looking at Link, Malon nodded and uttered, “I’ll make sure I say goodbye this time.”
“Malon, I said I was going to say goodbye…”
“Not you, me. I know you’re going to say goodbye, but I also want to say goodbye. They are two different things that make up one thing, and I want to make sure my half is fulfilled.”
Link couldn’t find anything to say in response.
Lunch seemed to come and go quickly. After eating a hearty portion of steak and vegetables, Link prepared himself for the journey ahead. He made sure he had all his pouches with his ocarina, the two Spiritual Stones, and the bombs. He made sure he had his slingshot and his sword. He made sure he had his hat with Navi, who was sleeping, underneath it. Finally, he made sure he had the bag of supplies given to him by Talon.
It was time to go.
Since Lon Lon Ranch stretched far beyond the farmhouse, Talon decided to give Link a ride to the edge of the farm. Link accepted the offer willingly. With the noon sun in the sky, Link, Talon, and Malon headed for the edge of the farm in the horse drawn cart. Talon chatted a little about how he was going to miss Link, but Link and Malon remained pretty quiet throughout the journey.
After a while, Talon finally stopped the cart, stating that they were at the edge of the farm’s property. Link took the farmer’s word for it, because he didn’t know the difference between the land the man owned and the land he didn’t own and there didn’t appear to be any marker that indicated which was which.
“Well, here we are, Link,” Talon said. “You sure you don’t want me to give you a ride to a nearby town or something?”
“No, thank you,” Link said as he jumped off the cart and onto the soft ground. “I can manage. If you’ll just give me directions to the nearest village…”
“Sure thing,” the farmer said and pointed northward. “In that direction you’ll come to a small stream that’s an offshoot of the Zora River. Just follow that stream westward and you’ll come to a village soon enough.” Talon then jumped off the cart himself and grabbed Link’s hand firmly. “It was a pleasure having you over as my guest, Link. I hope I made your visit here worthwhile.”
“And I thank you for being my host,” Link uttered. “I really enjoyed my time here and hope…” He then stopped. He wanted to say that he hoped to come back sometime, but he didn’t know if he was ever going to, so he said something else. “…that I will never forget you and Malon.”
“Oh, I’m sure you won’t forget us,” Talon said with a smile. “We’re pretty hard to forget.” He then looked up at his daughter, who was still in the cart. “Malon, aren’t you going to say goodbye to your friend?”
Malon nodded slightly before climbing off the cart and striding towards Link. But she then surprised both the Kokiri and her father by saying, “Link, can we do this alone?”
Calling him by his real name again. Link hesitated before saying, “S…s…sure thing. Hold on a moment.” He then carefully removed his cap with Navi still sleeping in it and placed it gently on the ground so he wouldn’t wake her up. He then turned to Talon and said, “Be right back.”
“Sure thing,” Talon said as he watched Malon and Link walk a short distance away from the cart.
When Malon felt they were far away enough, she uttered, “Okay, Link, this is far enough.”
The two then stopped and turned to face each other. They stared at one another in silence before Link finally asked, “Okay, Malon, why did…?”
“This jewel,” Malon interrupted Link as she reached and grabbed the red jewel hanging from her necklace. “It means a lot to me, Link. When I found it after you left me in Hyrule Castle New City, I new we would meet again. I vowed that I would repay you somehow, and I hope that your visit here was enough.”
Somewhat confused by this strange speech, Link said, “Malon, my stay here was terrific. You have no idea how much fun I had…”
“I know. I have no idea how you enjoyed my stay, so I don’t know if it meets my expectations. That is why I want to give you something to make sure you will never forget me. This jewel of yours will forever remind me of you. I want to make sure you will never forget me…never.”
“Malon, I would never forget you…”
“I just want to make sure. Please, Link, let me do this for myself. I want to make sure. Please.” Her eyes glimmered like lakes of pure water in the sunlight. It wasn’t the face that girls made to get a boy’s attention. It was a face that was genuinely asking him a favor. It was probably the most powerful and sincere thing a girl could do. Link couldn’t help but accept.
“Very well, Malon, whatever you wish.”
“Thank you. Here you are.”
Malon then stretched out her right hand and showed Link something in its palm. It was a small, thin band of silver with a separating catch. Link immediately recognized it as an earring.
“It was my mother’s,” Malon said. “She lost the other one as a child, yet she for some reason always loved this one despite its simple design. When I was young, she gave it to me and told me to give it to someone I truly care for. I’m sure she would want me to give it to you.”
Link smiled faintly and said, “Thank you…but I’m afraid I don’t know how to put it on…”
“Here, let me do it for you.”
Without any hesitation from either Malon or Link, Malon took the single earring and pierced it on Link’s left ear. The thin piece of metal that sank into his flesh stung a little, but Link refused to flinch. When Malon was finished, she stepped back, overlooked her handiwork, and smiled.
“Perfect. I wish I had a mirror so I can show how handsome you look.”
Link blushed. “Well, I, err…thanks for the compliment, I guess.”
Link’s words were followed by a long moment of silence. The two of them just stood there, staring at each other, as if they wanted to do one more thing but were unable to think of anything. Link wasn’t sure why he felt very uncomfortable, and he was also unsure of why Malon couldn’t find anything to say. Saying goodbye shouldn’t be this hard, should it?
As Link tried thinking of something to say, Malon suddenly turned her gaze to face the ground. He could also see her face grow increasingly red. Was she trying to hide something from him?
Without warning, Malon rushed forward and wrapped her arms around Link so compellingly that Link’s return hug was more of a reflex to her own embrace than a response. The force she exerted as she crashed into him nearly caused Link to lose his balance, and immediately he could hear a soft, muffled cry coming from the farm girl.
“Malon?” Link repeated. “What’s wrong?”
“Don’t forget me,” was all she whispered as she buried her face in his shirt. “Just please don’t forget me. That’s all I ask.”
Link felt his heart sink like a stone thrown in water. Something was wrong here, something was very wrong. He didn’t know why, but Malon wasn’t supposed to act like this. She was too young to behave in this manner; Link may be a Kokiri, but his time outside of the Lost Woods have taught him about age and how people were supposed to act at certain ages.
This wasn’t right. How old was Malon? What did she say during his time at the ranch, that she was eleven years old? And yet here she was, acting like someone much older. Malon was…growing up. And she was growing up far too quickly. How he knew that, he couldn’t tell, but he knew. Something inside of him knew.
And that something also knew something else: he was also growing up too quickly. But his Kokiri heritage told him that was impossible; the Kokiri never age, so how could he grow up? He had been a Kokiri for…how long? Couldn’t he even remember? Had it been that long already? Or had it not been long enough?
He was changing. Through growing up or not, he was changing. This quest…it was turning him into something, something he never thought he’d become. This mission, given to him by Princess Zelda, was transforming him and everything around him. Whether he liked it or not, for better or worse, he was changing.
By the Three Goddesses, what was he changing into…?
Unable to do anything else, Link finally answered Malon’s request. He had answered it before, but he answered it again. “I won’t forget you. I promise.”
He then felt tears from his own eyes stream down his cheek. Some of them were falling in recognition the goodbye between him and Malon, but others were falling for another reason. They were a kind of silent prayer, a prayer to the Three Goddesses for protection. Protection for both him and Malon. For him on the remainder of his quest, and for Malon against whatever was going on inside her heart right now.
He prayed that latter prayer because he felt Malon didn’t deserve to grow up. She didn’t deserve it. Not now…
“You didn’t even wake me! How could you do something like that?”
Navi hovered angrily in front of Link’s face, her pink glow shimmering furiously. Ever since she had woken up and discovered they had left Lon Lon Ranch without her knowing, she had hammered Link all day for it. Even now, with evening setting in, she still wouldn’t shut up.
“You really should’ve woken me up, at least when you said goodbye! I never got the chance to say thanks to them for the lovely time I had, and…”
Link had been traveling for the Three Goddesses knows how long, so he wasn’t in the mood to listen to Navi’s pointless griping. He focused his line of sight on the livid fey and declared, “Navi, it’s not the end of the world, okay? So do you have to babble on about it all day?”
“Don’t I have a right to?” the fairy fumed. “Can’t I express my feelings as much as I want?”
“Okay, I’m sorry, but don’t put all the blame on me. You were the one who slept more often than usual…hey, that’s something interesting. Why did you sleep so much at the ranch? You took practically every chance you got to take a nap. Why is that?”
Navi’s flickering glow suddenly stabilized, and the fairy turned her back to Link. It took her a few minutes to finally answer. “I…I don’t know. I guess it was just so comfortable there…so relaxing, far more relaxing than anywhere I’ve ever been, even the Lost Woods. Maybe it was the atmosphere, maybe it was the hospitality, or maybe it was the fact that I felt I had no duties to uphold there. Malon practically ‘borrowed’ my responsibility of watching you, so I had nothing to do except…relax.”
The fairy then turned around and faced Link, her anger apparently completely gone. “By the way, how did it go with Malon? Did she take the idea of you leaving well?”
Now it was Link’s turn to be silent for a few moments. “She…she already knew I would be leaving soon,” he finally answered. “She took it quite well because of it, although she was still a little sad at me leaving. She gave this earring as a parting gift.”
“Earring…?” the fey asked before Link pointed to the item on his ear. “Oh, is that what an earring is? Interesting. Looks like nothing more than a piece of metal stuck through your ear. Does it hurt…stupid question, guess not. It was nice of her to give it to you, I suppose. Still, it doesn’t seem to be anything special…”
But Link knew Navi was wrong. The piece of jewelry meant a lot to him, as much as Saria’s ocarina. She had given to him out of friendship, but not just any friendship. It was a friendship based upon something special that they both felt. They weren’t friends simply because they liked each other; they were friends because they shared something that surpassed simple explanation. He had felt such a bond between Saria, and now he had felt one between Malon.
He remembered what had happened after they had hugged at their parting. Malon had taken Link’s hand and the two had walked slowing back to the patiently waiting Talon. There, Malon had said goodbye one more time before climbing on the cart. Talon had said goodbye a final time as well before also jumping back onto the wagon. Link had replaced his hat on his head with Navi inside, and he had then watched the wagon make its way back to the farmhouse.
During the entire time the wagon had been in sight, he could feel Malon’s eyes looking back at him…
“Link!” Navi suddenly screamed to get Link’s attention from his trance. “Where are we heading, by the way? You never told me that.”
“I wonder why?” Link thought grumpily before saying, “We’re heading for the nearest village along a small river Talon told me about. We haven’t reached that river yet, so we might have to sleep in the open tonight.”
Link thought he heard Navi sigh. “Any idea how much farther before we get to that river?” she asked.
The sky that night was somewhat cloudy, barring any of the stars from shining their light onto the world. Even the lonely master of the night, the moon, could barely illuminate the world through the thick carpet of clouds. Thus, the plains where Link and Navi were camping out for the night were gloomy and thick and not very inviting.
To brighten the mood, Link had made a fire with carefully bunched dry grass as fuel and a stone and his sword as the igniter. It did make things slightly more lighthearted, although it couldn’t eclipse the gloominess of the night completely. Hoping to take his mind off the uneasiness that surrounded him, Link nibbled some of the provisions that Talon had given him: cheese, bread, and other assorted simple foods. He decided to nibble them because he didn’t know how far he was from the nearest village. Navi, who wasn’t hungry, didn’t have anything to eat.
The night wore on, but sleep didn’t set in for Link. Maybe it was the murkiness of the night, or maybe it was something plaguing his mind, but either way he couldn’t fall asleep. Navi had fallen asleep easily – probably because she was a fairy and was used to sleeping outside in all kinds of weather – so Link was forced to think of a solution by himself.
His first idea was merely to think until he felt sleepy. “Two Spiritual Stones down, one to go. Ganondorf has been to two of them, so there’s a strong possibility he’s been to the third. I just wonder how he knew where they were? Pity I can’t ask him…no, don’t even think about that. I had just better watch out for anything he might’ve left to ‘guard’ the third Stone.
“And Kaepora…maybe it was a mistake to leave him without telling him where we went. But can’t he use his magic to find me…? But he said it sometimes doesn’t work, and he probably would’ve found me by now. So I might have to find the last Stone without him. I wonder what he’s doing right now? Could he have found the last Stone already?
“Speaking of which, I wonder how Princess Zelda’s doing? I hope nothing’s happened to her. But she looks like a strong woman, and she’s got Impa by her side. So Ganondorf shouldn’t try anything funny…at least I hope so. Then again…”
His idea unfortunately fell flat.
So he decided to try another idea: to play himself to sleep. He slipped his ocarina from his pouch and placed its mouthpiece upon his lips. Link then thought about what song he should play. Zelda’ Lullaby was too sacred and should only be used for when he needed it, he thought. And Epona’s Song was too fresh in his mind, so it wouldn’t be challenging enough.
So Saria’s Song it would be…
“Link, you can’t be like that…you just can’t be. You are not like that. You will never be like that. Please say that you aren’t…that you’ll never be like that. Please, Link, please…”
The thought circled through Saria’s mind endless times, oftentimes so loudly that it forced Saria to shed tears in response. She sat on her knees on the floor, her face buried in her arms, which were resting folded upon the surface of her table. She seldom looked up from the pillow her arms had become, and when she did she quickly hid her face once more.
She thanked the Three Goddesses that Katl wasn’t there to see her, because she had become consumed by her fear.
Her fear that Link had become a cold, cruel person.
She had remained in her home ever since she had had that disturbing vision, and refused to come out. Mido was one of the few Kokiri to have seen her like this, and he had only seen her once. She had sent Katl away because she didn’t want her fairy to be shamed by watching over her in such a state. She didn’t leave even to eat; she survived by nibbling on stale food she kept around the house or food that had managed to enter her house thanks to determined Kokiri.
How the other Kokiri were reacting to her seclusion she didn’t know…or care. She was determined to wait until Link finally played her song again. Then…
There! There it was! Saria looked up and at the ceiling, as if watching something hovering above her. But she knew what it was, and it wasn’t something she could see. She couldn’t see it, but she could hear it in her mind. It was something she herself had given life to. It was what she had been waiting for.
It was her song.
Tears of relief and joy started to stream down her face. “Link…you’re playing it…thank you…please, don’t stop now, don’t…!”
Like Malon with Epona’s Song, the song didn’t sound as good as it did when Saria played it, but Link thought it sounded good enough. He managed to find the rhythm, the beat, the melody, and everything else almost perfectly. How he wished Saria could hear him play it…so she could have the satisfaction of realizing that her belief was true.
The ocarina was alive, and it was helping Link to play the song.
“I should fall asleep after playing this for a while,” he thought as he continued playing effortlessly. “Or maybe I should switch songs every once in a while…”
—Don’t you dare! —
The entry of Saria’s voice in his mind was so sudden that Link nearly jumped up and stopped playing the ocarina.
—No, Link, don’t stop playing that song! Please, just continue playing it, please—
Unable to do otherwise, Link continued playing the song. He remained silent in his mind for a few moments before finally gathering the courage to think.
“Saria…? Is that you?”
—Yes, Link, it is I—
When he heard those words, Link couldn’t help it. His eyes suddenly released tears and his lips curled into a smile, making his playing a little difficult. But he continued to play, not wanting to let this moment go.
“Then it was you…back at Death Mountain. I played your song, and I heard your voice. Saria…I can’t believe I’m talking to you again. I missed you so much…”
—And I missed you, Link…you have no idea how much I worried about you…how much I…—
Just then, Saria fell silent. Link waited a few minutes before thinking, “Saria, are you okay?”
—Yes, I’m okay. I…just got a little overemotional, that’s all. It’s nothing—
“Saria, what is this? How is it that we’re talking like this? What is going on?”
—It’s difficult to explain. The song you’re playing right now is a melody I learned from listening to the spirits of the forest. If you play it, you can actually communicate with the spirits. If you know the song well enough, you can actually sense when it’s being played. That’s how I knew you were playing it. The real reason is far more complicated than that, but that’s the best explanation I can give—
There was a brief moment of silence before Saria broke it.
—So, Link, what has happened to you? Have you fulfilled the wishes of the Great Deku Tree? —
Link hesitated. “Yes, I have…but I’m doing something else right now, something I believe I must do.”
Link expected Saria to react angrily, but she didn’t.
—Oh. What is it you’re doing? —
With that Link, tried to explain everything as best and quickly as he could. He told Saria about Princess Zelda, Ganondorf, and how he had to find three Spiritual Stones so that the Sacred Realm and the Triforce could be protected. He excluded anything that wasn’t necessary, like his battle with King Dodongo and his time on the farm with Malon. He did, however, state that he had two of the Stones with him and he just needed to find the third one.
—So you just need to fine the last one—
—Any idea where it could be? —
“I only have one clue, and that’s that it’s found underneath the ‘tears of heaven.’ Unfortunately, I don’t know what this mean.”
Saria then remained quiet for a minute before resuming.
—Link, I think I know where to find it—
Link nearly choked on his mouthpiece when he heard that. “What…? You do…? How…? How could you know something like that…?”
—Calm down, calm down, and let me explain. Remember that I once spoke to the Great Deku Tree often? Well, he once told me about the Kokiri’s Emerald and how it was one of three keys to the power of the gods. He told me where to find the other two, as well. One was entrusted to the Goron race of Death Mountain, and the third – the one you’re looking for – was given to the Zora race of Zora’s Domain—
Link tried his best to contain his surprise and excitement, but it was difficult. “Zora’s Domain…I’m heading for a river that’s an offshoot of something called Zora’s River. Is Zora’s River found at the end of that river?”
—Hmm, possibly. I’m not sure which end it would be, but I assume it would be at the starting point of the river. The Great Deku Tree often mentioned that the Zoras were entrusted with keeping the Sacred River of Hyrule pure, which meant they had to take care of the source. Whether or not these two rivers are the same, I don’t know. But I suppose it’s the only lead you have—
“I guess you’re right. I’ll head in that direction and see what I can find. Thanks, Saria.”
—Please, Link, don’t mention it. I’m just happy to hear from you again. I’ve waited and waited for you to play my song again, and now that you finally have…words can’t describe how happy I am right now—
“Saria…will I be able to call and talk to you like this all the time?”
—Yes, Link. You can talk to me any time like this. Whenever you want to talk to me, just play my song—
The two Kokiri spent the remainder of the night talking to each other through their ocarinas, as if to catch up on all the time they had missed since the day Link left the Lost Woods…