The sky was perfect that day, with Din’s Eye sparkling wondrously through the sporadic patches of clouds against its crystal-blue backdrop. Around the Lost Woods, trees and flowers were in full bloom, bragging to everyone who was lucky to seem them with their rich green leaves and vibrant blossoms. Even the grass had their own bragging rights as they swayed in the gentle breezes, becoming carpets of emerald wind.
This, thought Link, was the perfect day. It was everything he had hoped it would be and then some. And in his own special way, he was going to make it even better…
It was midday, the time of day Link liked to leave Kokiri Village and take a walk in the forest. He was in the midst of such a walk, and he loved every bit of it, from the sun’s rays tickling his face to the blades of grass caressing his legs. Saria was with him, as usual; ever since Link had returned from the quest given to him by the late Great Deku Tree, she had spent more time with him than she had before. She had grown quite fond of him, even going so far as to hang onto his arm wherever the two of them went, like she was doing now.
Link didn’t mind her company; in fact, he welcomed it. These days, she was all he needed to feel at peace…
It was just the two of them today; Navi and Katl were attending the annual Service of Respect, a ritual the fairies performed in honor of the deceased Deku Tree. But Link wasn’t bothered; in fact, he somewhat liked the fact he was alone with Saria. It would make what he was going to do today that much easier. He just hoped he wouldn’t lose his nerve…
The two Kokiri continued on their hike through the forest, arms locked and smiles wide, until they came across exactly was Link was looking for: a clearing in the trees, one filled with brightly-colored flowers and relatively low-growing grass. He had been to this clearing many times before, but never before had he taken the time to really admire it. After today, however, he would surely remember it, down to the last detail…
“Let’s take a rest here, Link,” Saria suddenly asked. “I like this place, for some reason.”
Link didn’t know whether to be pleased or amazed at the idea. “Talk about timing….”
“Okay, Saria,” Link replied. “We can do that. We can sit…over there, on that hill.”
Link then led his friend over to a small rise in the clearing, a rise large enough to be seen as a hill compared to the rest of the surrounding ground. Saria then led the charge by letting go of Link’s arm and lying down upon her back against the hill’s slope, with Link following suite moments later. The two of them then looked up at the sky, watching the calm winds carry the bright, white clouds away in silence.
They didn’t say anything for several minutes, and it was Saria who finally spoke up. “Link, how long ago was it?”
“How long ago was what?” Link asked.
“That you left this place to go on the quest of the Great Deku Tree? How long ago was that? I can’t even remember anymore.”
Link shrugged. “I don’t know myself. I’m sure it’s more than four years, but it can’t be greater than eight or nine. It’s probably around six or seven years, eight at most. Why do you ask?”
Saria shifted her bodyweight before responding, “I guess I’m just curious. Every time this time of year comes around, I’m always reminded of that day, the day you left this place. I’ll never forget that day, because when you left, a part of me left with you. I don’t know if I ever told you that, but that’s what really happened. I’ll never forget that day. Never.”
Saria then tilted her head a little so she could look at Link. “By the way, you never did tell me everything that happened out there. Even after all this time, you haven’t said anything about it. Why is that?”
Link hesitated. He didn’t know the answer to that question himself. But after a bit of thinking he managed to figure out an answer. “I think…it’s because what happened out there…doesn’t really matter to me that much. Whatever I did out there was nothing compared to what I have here, in the Lost Woods. I guess at first I just didn’t want to think about it because it was so painful, but now I don’t want to think about it because I don’t have to. I can’t even remember much of it anymore. All I want, all I need, all I have…it’s right here.”
Saria smiled slightly before turning her gaze back to the sky. “That sounds reasonable. But after what you told me through our ocarina chats, I would’ve guessed you had done something important. I just hope you’re not lying to yourself about that.”
Something inside Link hoped that as well. He didn’t know why, but he felt something in his mind, something strange. It felt like something was struggling to reach him, attempting to remind him of something but unable to because of an unseen force. He tried to ignore it, but he couldn’t…
Wait…what was that? Just his memory just flash him a picture of someone? He couldn’t remember who it was, but it looked like a young girl with flowing red hair…
“Speaking of which,” Saria suddenly interrupted as she sat up with a start, “how’s your ocarina-playing going?”
Glad that he could concentrate on something other than peculiar memories, Link sat up and turned to his friend. “They’re going pretty well, actually. I’ve managed to get to a point where I can add my own variations. Would you like to hear one? I’ve brought my ocarina with me.”
Saria smiled a smile of heartfelt contentment and placed a hand over her chest. “Link, I would love to.”
Smiling in return, Link reached for his pouch and pulled out his ocarina, which was the fairy ocarina Saria had given to him on that fateful day – for some reason, he vaguely recalled having another ocarina, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Dismissing the idea, Link lifted the instrument to his mouth, wrapped his lips around the mouthpiece, and started to play.
The clearing was filled with the sound of exquisite music for what seemed like a treasured eternity, and when Link finished playing Link wished he could’ve played longer. When he saw the look in Saria’s eyes, he knew she wished so as well.
“That was beautiful,” Saria praised, her eyes already showing the signs of tears. “I’ve always dreamed of hearing you play like that, and it’s wonderful to finally hear it. I’m so proud of you, Link. I knew you could do it. What was that song, again? I can never remember those names of yours.”
“It was…Epona’s Song,” Link replied.
“Epona’s Song,” Saria repeated. “Such a simple name for such a beautiful song. Why do you call it that? Who exactly is Epona?”
“I’m not sure,” Link answered, scratching his head to loosen some grass from his hair. “I don’t think I’m the one who named it. But it doesn’t really matter what it’s called. I’m just glad I could play it like that…for you.”
More tears started to well up in Saria’s eyes. “For…me? Link, you’re so sweet. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. I’m glad you came back to me. I don’t what you to leave me again. Ever.”
At that moment, Link knew the time was right. It was now or never.
“Saria,” he began as he lowered the ocarina to the ground, “there’s actually something I wanted to ask you today.”
Saria lifted her head in curiosity. “Oh, really? What’s that?”
“We’ve been friends ever since…well, I can’t really remember, but we’ve been friends for a long time now. For as long as I can remember, you’ve always been there for me, during the good times and the bad times. There wasn’t a single time I didn’t need you that you weren’t there. You’ve been the best friend I could ever have, and a lot more.
“And ever since I returned from that journey out of the forest, you’ve been an even greater friend to me. You’ve hardly left my side, and I thank you greatly for that. Whenever you’re with me, I feel at ease, at peace. When you’re with me, I feel I don’t need a guardian fairy. You’re all I need to feel complete, to feel whole. Saria, you mean more to me than anything else in this world.”
Saria was starting to tremble, as if suspecting what was going to happen but unable to believe it. “Link, what are you trying to say? What is it you want to ask me?”
Link’s own eyes started to well up with tears. “What I’m saying is this.” Link then moved into a position where he was sitting upon his knees and facing his friend with his hands clamped together. Saria let out a soft gasp of realization, because all Kokiri girls knew what this meant. “Saria, I love you. Will you be my wife?”
Saria’s face betrayed her disbelief in Link’s proposal. By the way she hesitated, Link knew Saria had waited for this moment but still was unable to believe it. As he sat there upon his knees, waiting for an answer, he silently prayed she would say yes.
When two Kokiri become husband and wife, not much actually changes except in that they make a vow to be together until the end of their days. A Kokiri couple was actually very rare, mainly due to the fact that they maintain the outward appearance of children. Because they never “grow up,” Kokiri most often see other Kokiri as just friends. For two Kokiri to become a couple, the two have to love each other unconditionally and promise to be there fore each other always.
Saria had been doing that for Link for as long as he could remember. Now he wanted to repay her kindness by always being there for her.
Tears starting to flow down her cheeks, Saria tried to say something but couldn’t manage because of her trembling. Link patiently waited until she was able to control her shaking so she could speak. “I…I…Link…I…”
Then, without warning, Saria’s shaking stopped and she gave a weak smile. She then moved her body into the position Link was in – kneeling, hands clapped together – before she spoke again, this time without a stutter. “Link, I would be honored to be your wife, if you will be my husband.”
Even though Link had asked Saria to be his wife, it was traditional for her to ask him to be her husband. He had expected that request, but he felt nervous hearing it, all the same. He took a brief moment to gather up his courage before he answered, “Saria, I would be honored to be your husband.”
As soon as Link uttered the word “husband,” Saria could control herself anymore. Her eyes burst open with tears and she cried out in a loud whisper, “I love you,” before throwing open her arms and pushing herself forward to embrace her new husband. Link, unable to hold back his tears as well, released them and opened his arms to welcome his new wife.
Sadly, he never had the chance to even touch her…
He was waking up. He was finally waking up from his endless dream. But the dream had been so real…so real that even now, while he was awakening from it, he questioned whether it had been more than a dream. Had he really lived those years in the Lost Woods, or had the reality of the dream simply been enhanced because all he could’ve done during that time was dream?
It was hard to tell, but despite that he knew that he wanted it to be real. That dream, or whatever it was, had been exactly what he wanted. He wanted to live his life in the Lost Woods, without any outside influences interfering. He wanted to live where he belonged, where he had lived all of his life. But most of all, he wanted to live the rest of his days with Saria, the person he cared about the most.
That dream had offered everything he desired, and now it was gone. Why? Why did he have to leave that place? Why did he have to wake up now? Why? Why…?
Unable to answer anything for some unexplained reason, Link decided to just open his eyes.
White. Everything all around him was white, brighter than anything he had ever seen before. It was like staring into pitch darkness, but using the color black’s complete opposite instead. At first he thought he had gone blind, but a quick movement of his left hand in front of his face disproved that theory. Speaking of which, when he moved his hand he felt absolutely not stiffness in his muscles and joints. And yet he somehow felt sure he would experience some kind of rigidity in his body…
He waited for something to happen, and his patience was rewarded. Within a few moments, the whiteness started to fade, turning instead into a kind of brightness. That brightness in turn began weakening, weakening until it resembled ordinary light. Soon Link could see vague shadows, and then he could make out colors. In a short while his complete vision had returned to him, but it still took a moment for him to really see anything clearly…
It was about then that Link realized he was standing on solid ground; he had felt like he was floating before, for some reason. He tested his legs by pushing down against the floor, and indeed the ground was solid. Deciding just to make sure, Link looked down at his feet…and felt his heart jump into his throat. By now he could see properly, and what he saw, what he was standing upon was a very familiar symbol. Familiar in that he had seen it moments before he had fallen “asleep.”
It was the symbol a large triangle constructed of three darkly shaded triangles with a hollow triangle in the middle. It was the symbol…of the Triforce.
He had been unsure then, but now he was certain. That symbol was indeed the icon of the Triforce. And he was standing upon it, right in the spot where the hollow triangle was placed. And if this was indeed the symbol of the Triforce, he was standing in a very important place, a place important enough to have that sign carved in the floor. But where exactly was he…?
Preparing himself, Link looked up. To his complete amazement, he discovered that the Triforce symbol he was standing upon was nothing more than an island! The symbol was nothing more than an island found in a sea of water! And the water…no, wait, it wasn’t water. It certainly didn’t look like water. It looked more like…light! Yes, light! And Link knew where he had seen that light before. It was the same light that had surrounded him the moment he had pulled the…
“…sword?” he mumbled out loud in a soft voice, a voice he felt like he hadn’t used for a long time, before he looked at his right hand, the hand he hadn’t moved yet. Sure enough, there, gripped firmly in his right fist, was the sword he had yanked from the podium. He didn’t know how he was able to hold it with just one hand – it was a heavy thing, after all – but he didn’t really care. He just wanted to know what exactly it had done!
He stared at it for a moment before he finally looked up again, looked up at the sea of blue light. But he quickly discovered the sea was hardly a sea; it was more like a small pond. The light flowed all around the Triforce-shaped island for a short distance before it…dropped off. Link didn’t know how to explain it, but the light flowed over some bizarre edge of the pond in every conceivable direction. It was like being on the top of a very tall pillar with water flowing over the top, but by the emptiness Link saw beyond the pond he didn’t think he was on any kind of pillar.
The surroundings were pitch black, blacker than the darkest night during a thunderstorm. It was more like a void, a void where nothing existed, not even light. But something did exist on the outskirts of that void, and they were just as unbelievable as the disappearing sides of the pond of light. They were waterfalls of light, small yet breathtaking waterfalls that flowed out of nothing and emptied into nothing as well. Their sources and emptying pools were nonexistent; how they were floating in the middle of the void was unimaginable. Although they were smaller, they were by far more beautiful than the waterfalls he had seen in Zora’s Domain.
Where in the world was he…?
As he looked around him, his eyes taking in everything in a dreamy and wistful manner, he noticed that the island he was standing on wasn’t the only island in the pool. There were several smaller islands positioned around the edge of the pool, each one circular in shape and each one with a different symbol engraved on its surface. They were all even different colors; one was rich green, another was intense blue, another was…
Wait a minute. There was something standing on one of the islands, the one colored a deep yellow…no, not something, but someone! Link snapped his full attention to focus on this person, his body readying itself for anything possibly dangerous. But he quickly deduced he wasn’t in any kind of danger…or at least none he could clearly discern.
The man on the yellow island possessed the average built of a Hylian: tall but not so much so, plump but not obese. Grandiose robes that appeared too big for him hid his entire body from the neck down; they were so big his hands were even covered by the clothing’s enormous sleeves, which had been tied closed for some reason. The robes seemed to show off every shade of red and orange available, although bits and pieces of yellow, white and blue were noticeable in several patterns.
Because most of his body was concealed, the man’s focal point was his head, which appeared smaller than normal due to his massive clothing. He looked to be quite old, due to the stark whiteness of his hair, which was absent from his scalp but stretched across his upper chin, along his outer cheeks, and above his eyes like wild bushes. His mouth was partially hidden by his moustache, and his nose stuck out like an ugly welt. His eyes were tiny compared to the eyes of other people Link had seen, but for some reason they held a lot more mystery and fascination. He looked harmless, but Link wasn’t about to let his guard down because of that.
The two stared at each other for what seemed like forever – oddly, Link was looking straight at him, not up at him. Was the old man farther away than he seemed? – and Link made sure he had the sword in his hand ready for any possible attack. The tension in the air wasn’t relieved until the old man finally spoke.
“Finally, after all these years. Welcome, Hero of Time. Welcome to the Sacred Realm.”
The old man had spoken three different sentences, and yet Link hadn’t understood any of them. “Excuse me?” Link asked, his voice sounding a little more confident...and a little bit deeper than usual. “What are you talking about? Who are you? Where am I? And what’s going on here?”
The old man appeared to cough before continuing. “Forgive me, Hero of…I mean, Link.” So, the old man knew Link’s name. “I am Rauru, the Sage of Light and guardian of the Temple of Light. You are in the Chamber of Sages, located within the Sacred Realm…or the Dark World, as it is known as now.”
More words that Link didn’t understand. Oh, sure, they answered some his questions, but they didn’t explain them. “I’m sorry, but I’m still not following you. I know what the Sacred Realm is, but I’ve never heard of the Chamber of Sages before, and I know very next to nothing about the Sages, other than you sealed up the Sacred Realm and hid the Spiritual Stones.” At least that was what Zelda had told him once. “I don’t even know how I got here. And you still haven’t answered some of my questions. Will you please tell me exactly what’s going on here?
Link knew he sounded a little demanding, but right now he didn’t feel like being pleasant. Rauru remained hesitant for a brief moment before he finally sighed and shook his head quietly.
“Very well,” he uttered. “I’ll tell you everything I know. In the early days of Hyrule, long before the times of the world you’ve lived in, the sacred relic known as the Triforce was the binding force that held our world together. But with its incredible power came many people who coveted it. In order to protect the relic from evil hearts, the gods chose six men and women to be the guardians of the Triforce. They became the first six Sages of Hyrule, and they set about to protect the Sacred Realm from all who desired the power of the Three Goddesses.
“To protect the Triforce, the six Sages sealed the Sacred Realm and created only one entrance. To guard this entrance, the Temple of Time was built over it and sealed behind the Door of Time, which was in turn sealed by using an elaborate system of keys. As you witnessed, unlocking the Door of Time required the three Spiritual Stones and the Song of Time played upon the Ocarina of Time. Those locks alone would’ve been enough to keep the Triforce and Sacred Realm safe, but one final lock had been put in place as a safeguard.
“You see, the six Sages decided that there would be only one reason to unlock the Door of Time to get to the Triforce, and that was when the land of Hyrule was in great danger. So to make sure the Triforce would never be used for unnecessary intentions, the Sages placed one final key just beyond the Door of Time, the key that would open the entrance to the Sacred Realm. That key was the Master Sword, a mighty blade believed to have been forged with the residue material of the Three Goddesses’ departure from this world, the same material of which the Triforce is made. The six Sages made sure that only one person other than themselves could pull the Master Sword from its pedestal, and that person would be chosen by destiny as the one who will save Hyrule from the darkness and evil that would befall it. That person is the Hero of Time.”
As Link listened to Rauru’s story, he didn’t know what to think. It sounded like nothing more than a more elaborate version of what Zelda had told him before he left to find the two remaining Spiritual Stones. But if what Rauru said was really true, then was the sword he was holding in his hand really the Master Sword? But then…did that mean he was this…Hero of Time person? How could that be…?
“As time went by,” Rauru continued, as if not hearing Link’s intended question, “people forgot about the Triforce and its powers, so the six Sages were no longer needed. But to make sure their power would awaken when the time arose, they constructed six temples to harbor each Sage’s power until the appropriate day. One of these temples was the Temple of Light, the temple I guard. The Temple of Light is located directly within the Sacred Realm, and it is within this temple where the Chamber of Sages is located. You see, although the Sages were no longer needed, they believed that at least one Sage should remain to watch over the sacred relic. That duty befell the Sage of Light, and he has watched over the Triforce all his life until this very day.”
Rauru then lowered his head, as if remembering a painful memory. “Yes, I am that Sage. I am the Sage that swore to protect the Triforce within the Sacred Realm for all of eternity. But that duty was taken away from me, stolen from me seven long years ago when an evil man named Ganondorf entered the Sacred Realm and took the Triforce for himself.”
Ganondorf. That dreaded name. Link’s muscles suddenly tensed up, as if readying for a battle of some kind, but Link made no move except to mutter, “Ganondorf?”
“Yes, Ganondorf.” Rauru then looked up again to eye Link. “Seven years ago, he saw his opportunity to take the Triforce when you made the decision to open the entrance to the Sacred Realm. You probably wouldn’t have been able to do anything to stop him anyway, but something happened that made sure of that. When you pulled the Master Sword from its pedestal, it sealed you inside a magical containment field. You see, the Master Sword found you too young to be the Hero of Time, so it sealed you up until you were old enough to wield its power. That was seven years ago.”
Seven years. Seven years. He kept using that phrase as if it meant something to Link, and now he was talking about how Link had been too young to hold the Master Sword! He was a Kokiri, for crying out loud! Didn’t Rauru know that…?
“I can see that you are confused by my words,” Rauru suddenly stated. “I can see in your eyes that you have many unanswered questions because of the way you were raised.”
“The way I was raised? What are you talking about…?”
“Link, this will be hard for you, but I want you to look at yourself. Look down at yourself and tell me what you see.”
Starting to get a little anger mixed in with his confusion, Link decided just to do what the old man wanted and looked down.
When he did, he nearly died of fright.
He expected to see the short, little boy body he had had for as long as he could remember, but he saw a much taller version instead. In place of his squat, stubby legs were long, thin, and brawny ones. His flat upper body and chest had grown more muscular and broader, and his arms were longer and far more robust. His eyes told him he was a lot taller, and he seemed to have more strength than he remembered having.
The next thing he noticed was his clothing. He was still wearing a green slip shirt, but it was a lot bigger and longer to accommodate for his larger body. He reached with his left hand to feel his head, and he found a hat there that was exactly like his old one, but again this one was longer. He even had matching boots that were scaled up in size. But then he discovered his new wardrobe. His arms and legs were no longer naked; now he was wearing a tight white undergarment that extended all the way to his writs and ankles. And on his hands – why didn’t he notice them before, he wondered? – on his hands were leather gauntlets that allowed only his fingers to poke through. Wrapped around his left shoulder and down to his right hip was a strap, probably for a scabbard. But it definitely wasn’t for his own, small sword; by the weight he felt on the strap, the scabbard was too big. Could it be for the Master Sword? And what else did he feel on his back? It felt like…a shield…?
His mind racing with questions and his face filled with disbelief, Link glanced at his new body for what seemed like forever before he looked up and eyed the pool of blue light. Deciding to take a chance, Link shuffled his way to the edge of the Triforce-shaped island, where he knelt down and looked over the edge. A part of him wanted the fluid-like light to have a reflection so he could make absolutely sure, but another part of him silently prayed it didn’t.
Surprise, the liquid light did have a reflection, albeit a somewhat hazy one. But it was all Link needed to see what he had dreaded the moment he had looked down at himself. Looking back at him through his reflection, eyeing him like a separate entity was a person he recognized and hardly recognized at the same time. Link saw a face that was distinctly his own but possessed a much…older aura. His soft, gentle facial skin seemed to have toughened, and the shape of his face had grown taller while thinning out. His beautiful golden locks were longer and straighter, reaching all the way past his ears, which had also given way to a growth spurt of their own by becoming more stretched and lankier. Even his eyes had changed; they were slightly smaller but more commanding and attentive.
It was as if someone had taken his original face and reshaped it completely, leaving only a vague memory of the original work. But Link knew the truth; he didn’t know how it was possible, but it was the only possible explanation.
He had grown up.
As if to reassure himself that the face was his own, Link used his left hand, which was trembling uncontrollably, to touch his cheek. But the moment his fingers caressed his skin, he stumbled backwards and cried out in horror.
“No! What in the name of the Three Goddesses is this? What happened to me?” He then looked up at Rauru, who was looking at him calmly but with an air of regret lingering over his head. “You! What did you do to me? What have you done, old man? Whatever you did, undo it! I demand you undo whatever you’ve done to me! I…!”
“I did nothing to you, my boy,” Rauru uttered sadly. “All I’ve done is show you what you’ve become, nothing more. It was your decision and yours alone to pull the Master Sword from the pedestal, and it was that decision that led to you being sealed away for seven years.”
Link’s face gaped in horror when he heard that phrase again. “Seven years? Is that how long I’ve been sealed away?”
Link suddenly stood up in protest. “But I’m a Kokiri! I’m not even supposed to age! Seven years should mean absolutely nothing to me! Why is it I’ve aged like this when I…”
“I cannot answer that question,” Rauru interrupted politely. “Fate has forbade me to tell you anything about this matter. The only one who can tell you is the one who raised you.”
“The one who raised me…? The Great Deku Tree! You mean the Great Deku Tree! But he’s dead! How can he tell me anything if he’s dead?”
“Again, I cannot answer that. But trust me when I say that all will be revealed. And try to understand that it will be revealed at the proper time and place. Any sooner or earlier and the path of destiny you walk upon might be destroyed. We cannot allow that to happen.”
Link was starting to get confused again. “Path of destiny? What are you talking about?”
Rauru lowered his head once more. “Link, I know this will be just as hard for you to accept, but listen to me. Because you are the Hero of Time, you must save Hyrule from the fate that has befallen it.”
The fact that Link was an “adult” was more than enough to upset him, but this new bit of news was just as disturbing. “What?” he cried in bewilderment. “What do you mean I have to save Hyrule? What do you mean…?”
At the mention of that dreaded name, Link felt a chill run down the back of his neck and all the way down his spine. His voice froze, forbidding him to say anything for a brief moment, and his eyes widened with alarm. When he could finally speak again, all he could do at first was repeat that frightening name.
“Ganondorf…Ganondorf…what about Ganondorf? What about him?”
Rauru raised his head again. “When the Master Sword sealed you away seven years ago, the entrance to the Sacred Realm remained open, allowing anyone to enter the holy land where the Triforce resided. Ganondorf seized the opportunity and entered the Sacred Realm to claim the Triforce. When he entered the Temple of Light, I did my best to stop him, but his evilness was too much for me. All I could do was watch as he took the Triforce for his own ambitions. Because he possessed the Triforce, the Sacred Realm began to reflect his black heart, turning from a golden paradise into what is now known as the Dark World. But Ganondorf wanted more than the Sacred Realm; using the power of the Triforce, the very power of the Three Goddesses, he conquered the land of Hyrule in less than seven years.”
The Sage seemed to sigh heavily before continuing, “All that is left of my beloved temple outside of Ganondorf’s influence is this Chamber of Sages, which is where you have remained sealed during your seven years of sleep. But now that you have awoken, you can wield the Master Sword as the Hero of Time and save our world from the foul touch of Ganondorf.”
Link was so overwhelmed by the old man’s story that he could actually feel his legs weaken due to the strain. But he kept himself steady and fully erect as he said, “But if I really am the Hero of Time, what am I supposed to do? How can I save this world from Ganondorf?”
Rauru seemed to have anticipated the question. “Your first task is to awaken the five other Sages. Because of Ganondorf’s evil, they cannot sense the great sorrow Hyrule is going through and thus refuse to awaken. To awaken them, you must go to the Temples of the Sages and find a way to release the power of the Sages. Once all five other Sages have awoken, we will help you find a way to destroy Ganondorf.”
Link didn’t know what to think. As much as he hated Ganondorf, he didn’t know if he was really up to this daunting task. He had had enough trouble collecting the Spiritual Stones, and Ganondorf had easily overpowered him during their first face-to-face confrontation. Now he had to awaken five Sages by going to various temples and then face the very man who had tricked him seven years ago…it was all too much to bear. Was he really this Hero of Time? He had so many unanswered questions…
“There is one more thing I need to do for you,” Rauru interjected. “To aid you in your journey, I will give you some of my power. It may not be very powerful at the moment because of the weakened state of the Temple of Light, but it will give you some protection. Please, take this Medallion of Light and use its power to guide you.”
Rauru then suddenly lifted his arms into the air, and Link heard a loud noise above him, like a wind whistling through multiple trees at once. He looked up, and saw a small yet bright ball of white light descending towards him. Instinctively, Link reached up with his left arm so he could catch it, and within a matter of minutes the ball of light was in his palm, raised above his head.
Then, with out a sound or twinkle, the light disappeared, and all that was left was a large, round medallion about the size of his head, glistening in the eerie sparkles of the waterfalls of blue light. Unable to say anything, not even a thank you or a question of curiosity, Link lowered his hand so he could be a better look at the enormous piece of jewelry. It was then he discovered that the medallion was colored the exact same color of Rauru’s island: deep yellow. And even though Rauru’s heavily robed body was covering it, Link was sure Rauru’s island’s symbol was the same as the one on the medallion.
The token was certainly beautiful, but it appeared more of a burden than anything else. It was far too big for him to really carry it around, and it didn’t seem to have any of the power Rauru had promised…
Suddenly, without warning, Link felt powerful surges run up his arm, as if lightning strikes were coursing through his veins. The jolts caused his fingers to reflexively close around the medallion, holding it tighter and tighter until…the medallion abruptly disappeared in thin air, leaving only a brilliant, golden flash and flecks of yellow dust. But Link didn’t even notice the medallion’s unexpected evaporation; the strange power continued to flow through his arm, up his neck and down his rib cage, and all the way to his brain and heart as if the medal were still there.
The experience only lasted for a few seconds, but the rush was so brutal Link lost control of his legs and fell to his knees. His breath suddenly grew violently desperate while he gulped in air as if he had been underwater for several years. Sweat ran down his face in streams, and blood rushed to his face like a plague. He tried to speak, but his voice felt strained and completely useless.
Then Rauru unexpectedly spoke up. “Stand up, Hero of Time.”
Instantly, Link felt all the symptoms of the attack disappear. His expressions of pain were immediately replaced with expressions of puzzlement and wonder, but he unwittingly decided not to say anything as he did as Rauru instructed. He still wasn’t comfortable with his title as the Hero of Time, but he realized he didn’t have a say in the matter right now.
When he was standing up completely, Rauru continued, his face now more grim and serious than Link had ever seen him before. “Your quest to awaken the five remaining Sages will now begin. When you leave this Chamber of Sages, someone will be waiting to guide you. Now go forth, Hero of Time, and walk your path of destiny. Deliver us from the evil that is Ganondorf, and bring harmony back to this world.”
At the very moment Rauru uttered that last word, everything suddenly grew bright before Link’s eyes. But for some reason this time, he didn’t shut or shield them…
When the light subsided, Link blinked in surprise to see where he was. He stroked his eyes with his leather gauntlet-clothed hands just to make sure, but when he looked again he saw the same thing. He was back in the Temple of Time, standing right in the room where he had found the Master Sword. He looked around the barren room for a few moments, looking for something, anything, that might explain his situation. He found nothing except barren stone walls and the chamber’s lone window.
Link suddenly felt alone, the emptiness of the room seemingly taunting him. Desperate for some kind of solitude, Link looked down at the Master Sword, which was still in his right hand. It was a magnificent blade, indeed; several times longer than his dagger-like sword and much more impressive, the blade seemed to glisten in the limited availability of light in the chamber, creating an uncanny shimmer along its edges. The hilt itself was colored royal purple and crafted into a miniature work of art; for some reason, it fit Link’s hand perfectly. Upon one surface of the blade, located a short distance from the hilt, was etched the now-familiar sign of the Triforce. He had a feeling he would be seeing that symbol a lot in the future.
He examined the blade for a brief while before he decided to get going. If he was going to find this guide of his, he might as well look for him. He obviously wasn’t here. He then decided to sheath the sword in the new scabbard on his back. He gripped the sword tightly and, with one smooth motion, slipped the sword in the scabbard. It fit perfectly, and he had done the task as if he had performed it all his life.
Nodding in satisfaction, Link started to head for the only exit in the chamber. But as he strutted his way down the small platform in the floor, he couldn’t help but wonder, “What have I gotten myself into now? By the Three Goddesses, is this even real? Am I still dreaming? It seems too ridiculous to be real. How can I be the Hero of Time? I’m not even a Hylian! Why would I be the Hero of Time if I’m not even from this land…?”
Suddenly, Link heard something behind him, something like the sound of someone following in his own footsteps. Link stopped walking, hesitated, then whirled around, pulling both the Master Sword from its scabbard and also removing his new shield from his back. He didn’t know how or why, but he suddenly felt prepared to face any one who wanted to challenge him, be it any of the hideous creatures he had killed or Ganondorf himself.
To his surprise, he found an ordinary person standing near the stone where the Master Sword had once resided. The stranger had stopped walking a split second before Link had hesitated, and now that new arrival was standing before Link, unafraid of the possibility of Link attacking.
The stranger was a boy – he had the apparent build – and stood about Link’s height (if Link were capable of making such a comparison, he’d say the boy was about his age). He wore a deep blue, one-piece suit that wrapped around his body tightly, showcasing all of his muscles and curves. Over his chest was a torn white shirt with a bizarre symbol of a red-colored eye with three triangular eyelashes, and the shirt had a large collar that rose well above the boy’s neck. The boy had probably faced some kind of trouble, as his lower arms and one of his fingers were clothed in bandages; even his head was wrapped in dressing, although Link guessed the head wrapping were more for decoration.
Link was very cautious about this newcomer, particularly because he couldn’t see the boy’s face. The enormous collar that climbed past his next covered the lower half of his face, and his bandaged cap hid his scalp. Only his eyes and a part of his nose were visible, and even then his long, golden locks of hair concealed one of his eyes and that whole side of his face. He appeared to have no weapons on his person, but after his encounter with Ganondorf, Link knew weapons weren’t that difficult to come by.
Link kept the Master Sword pointed straight at the stranger and made sure his shield was positioned correctly for any kind of attack. The two locked gazes for a long moment before the newcomer finally spoke up. His voice was gentle yet firm, a sign that he managed to maintain some kind of dignity during whatever troubled times he had been through.
“After all these years, the day has finally come. Greetings, Link, the Hero of Time.”
So this person also knew Link’s name, and he also called Link the Hero of Time. Link chose not to loosen his stance as he said in reply, “Who are you? And how do you know my name?”
The boy took a few steps forward and then stopped again before answering, “My name is Sheik. I am of the Sheikah, the people of prophecy and the ones chosen to guard the Royal Family.”
The Sheikah? Wasn’t that Impa’s people? Did this boy named Sheik know Impa? And if he did, then did he also know where…?
“The Sheikah?” Link blurted out, lowering his sword slightly. “Then do you know where Princess Zelda is?”
Sheik seemed to hesitate when the question was asked, but he didn’t hesitate for long. “Princess Zelda is safe; you need not worry about her. She is in my care, so you can be assured she will not be harmed. However, I cannot allow you to meet with her at this time.”
“Why not?” Link asked,suddenly growing suspicious again.
“Because of Ganondorf.” That name again sent a cold shiver down Link’s spine. “Ever since he stole the Triforce and conquered Hyrule with his cruel hand, he has searched endlessly for her in hopes to exploit her influences over the people. Meeting with her now might compromise her safety, and that is the last thing we need at this time.”
Although Link really wanted to see Zelda again, he could see the logic in Sheik’s words. And by now, Link could see Sheik wasn’t anything to be cautious of. Even so, he kept the Master Sword in his hand and his new shield on his arm; it just made his feel a little more secure.
The two young men shared another moment of silence before Sheik spoke again, “Even now, as I see you standing before me, holding the legendary Master Sword in your hand, I can see you are truly the Hero of Time. Although I must admit, I never thought the Master Sword would choose your attire in the likeness of your upbringing.”
Link blinked in puzzlement. “Chose my attire…excuse me?”
“You are probably wondering why you are wearing clothing that matches your Kokiri clothes, and why you possess such things as a scabbard for the Master Sword and a new shield. The reason is that only the Hero of Time may hold the Master Sword, and the Hero of Time requires garments worthy of that title. So the sword chooses what the Hero of Time shall wear, and in your case it has chosen to give you garments harking back to your days with the Kokiri. I expected you to be wearing the glory-filled armor of Hyrule, but the Master Sword has chosen otherwise.”
Sheik then paused, indicating he was probably smiling under that enormous collar of his. “But the sword still chose to give you a shield bearing the crest of the Royal Family as well as the symbol of the Triforce, so you are not isolated completely from the people you are destined to save.”
That phrase – “the people you are destined to save” – reminded Link of his current situation and something Rauru had mentioned. He lowered the Master Sword and his shield and uttered, “Tell me, do you happen to be the one who will guide me? Or are you here to take me to the one who will guide me?”
“I am the one here to guide you,” Sheik answered, “but only as far as I am able to. You see, I have duties to perform in preparation for the final battle against Ganondorf, so I must leave you to do much of your quest without my help. However, I will provide you with what is necessary to complete your tasks, including where to start. The first temple is the Temple of the Forest, located in a place you know very well. The Lost Woods.”
Temple of the Forest? In the Lost Woods? Link couldn’t believe his ears; the first temple he was supposed to visit was in the very place he wanted to go. Now he could go and find out if his home and all his friends were all right. But more importantly, he could see Saria again…
“The Lost Woods, huh?” Link smirked. “Don’t worry, I can get there easily enough. I just need to know where the temple is and…”
“I do not know where the Temple of the Forest is,” Sheik interrupted. “No one has seen that temple ever since its construction, for the Lost Woods has been considered too treacherous for outsiders to enter. However, I have visited the forest many times over the years to search for the temple, but I have been able to find nothing. The only ones who know where the temple can be found are the denizens of the forest, the Kokiri, and they do not take kind to strangers.”
Sheik then started to walk forward. “But you might be able to find away to ask them where the temple is, as you were once one of them. I’m sure you can find someone who will be willing to tell us what we need to know.”
“But first,” Sheik continued as he continued walking, moving past Link and waving his hand in the air, motioning for Link to follow him, “I need to show you out of the city. Follow me.”
Sheik’s actions happened to fast that Link didn’t have time to argue or give his say in the matter. All he could do was sheath his sword, return his shield onto his back, turn around and follow Sheik out of the temple.
It was horrible. Just horrible.
Signs of things to come were seen even before Link left the Temple of Time. When he and Sheik exited the room where the Master Sword had once resided, he saw the main hall and gaped in shock. All of the pews that once dwelled within the main hall were gone, left as scraps of timber lying all over the floor. The beautiful stained-glass windows had all been shattered, their multicolored glass strewn everywhere like a broken rainbow. The floor itself was cracked and torn up, and the walls were crumbling into disarray. The only thing that remained intact was the altar Link where Link had placed to the Spiritual Stones, and to his amazement the three gems were still in their respective slots. But the stones’ luster had faded and their beauty was nothing more than a faint shadow of itself.
Outside, things got even worse. The once-beautiful façade of the Temple of Time was in just as much disrepair as the inside of the church; its beautiful gray brick was now dark with soot and grime, and the roof was in desperate need of repair. The streets that led from the church to the center of the city were also practically ruined by decay and neglect. Ugly moss lined the cracks like a parasite, and fissures spread across the roads like intricate yet sloppy spider webs.
The houses didn’t fare that much better either. The colorful sidings and vibrant roofs were falling apart, some so severely that they had collapsed into piles of rubble with rotten wooden beams poking through like decayed skeletons. Evidence of fires and vandalism was everywhere; Link could only imagine what kind of turmoil Hyrule had gone through during his seven years of slumber.
“And to think,” he thought to himself as he strolled down the street with Sheik by his side, “this is what you wanted to forget…”
All he had seen was upsetting by itself, but it was Market Square that was truly heartbreaking. The once exquisite square that had been filled with shopping booths, restaurants, and fun-loving people was deserted, a void where happiness and love had once reigned. The streets were in the worst condition he had seen yet, the surrounding homes were charred and destroyed with disturbing severity, and the empty fountains were a painful reminder of the lost innocence of the city. It was one thing to see streets and homes decimated, but to see a place that was once a center of joy and delight was something else.
Link was so flabbergasted by the new look of Market Square that he had to stop to keep back the hurt in his heart. Sheik stopped also, as if knowing why the Hero of Time needed to halt their progression out of the city.
“It’s terrible, isn’t it?” Sheik asked rhetorically. “Ever since Ganondorf’s dark reign, this city has seen neither joy nor happiness. Not even the sun shines on Hyrule Castle New City; Ganondorf’s evil is drawn to this place so powerfully the sun cannot penetrate the thunderclouds that hover overhead. But believe it or not, Market Square was once far more horrifying than it is now.”
Sheik then slowly lowered his head. “A few years ago, some lone wolves tried to take back the castle, but they never made it farther than Market Square. All of them were killed on the spot by Ganondorf’s army. They were foolish to try a head-on attack in the first place, but still…all that unnecessary bloodshed…all those lives lost for no reason…it makes me sick just thinking about Ganondorf’s cruelty. If there were any way I could stop him, I’d do it now…”
“Hey, there’s someone over there!” Link suddenly interjected before he started running towards the center of the square.
Sheik looked up. “Someone over there…?” Suddenly, his eyes widened in horror. “No, Link, wait! Don’t go there! Link!”
Link must’ve blocked out everything, for he didn’t even notice Sheik’s warning. He just ran up to the middle of Market Square, right where one of the now-decimated fountains stood, and walked around it. On the other side of the circular fountain he found the very thing he had seen: a person, shuffling his way around the square with crooked knees and horrible posture. His back was facing Link, but Link could tell this person was in terrible pain.
Link didn’t know what this person was doing here, but he had to help him. He walked up to the person and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Excuse me, sir, what are you doing here? You have to come out of here with us and…”
At that moment, the person turned around with startling speed, and Link saw his face. What Link saw made his blood freeze and his skin crawl. The person’s face was…a skull. A small yet malicious-looking skull colored a sickening red, covered with a thin layer of dead skin. The eye sockets were empty, but Link could feel the creature somehow looking at him. The decayed skin around the mouth was peeled back, revealing rows of long, rotting teach attached to moldy, black gums. The rest of the body was colored an earth-like brown, but it was no more disgusting. Like the face, it was a skeleton wrapped in decayed skin, but this skin was soiled with putrid grime. Every bone and bare muscle was visible; it looked like the creature hadn’t eaten anything its entire life and yet somehow found a way to stay alive. It looked weak, but Link knew such assumptions were deadly.
Link was about to run away when the creature opened its mouth and let out a short yet high-pitched scream. When it reached Link’s ears, the Hero of Time froze on the spot. And when he tried to get away, he found to his complete horror he couldn’t move. He tried to do everything he could to get his muscles to respond, but whatever the beast had done wouldn’t let him go.
As he watched in terror, the monster shuffled its way up to Link and leaned forward, reaching for Link’s neck with it bony hands, the creature’s empty eyes never seeming to leave Link for a second. The moment Link thought he was going to die was when the monster opened its disgusting mouth, showing off its rotten teeth coated with trickles of yellow saliva…
Without warning, a glint of white metal sliced through the creature’s squat, stubby neck like a silver wind. An instant later, the beast’s head flew off its shoulders, its mouth throwing spit in every direction. There was no blood seeping from the wound, just sagging skin and a vile, charred pulp. The head landed on the ground a short distance away from the body, which a split second later fell limp to the floor into a lifeless heap.
Almost at once, whatever had caused Link to freeze disappeared and the Hero of Time could move again. But he was still in shock over what had just happened…or over what had nearly happened. What did happen, anyway…?
“Link, are you all right?”
It was Sheik. Link turned his head to the side and saw him standing within reaching distance, his right hand holding a small yet deadly looking dagger. He was breathing heavily and what was visible of his face was sweating. Even Sheik’s eyes were wide with fear and urgency. He had obviously cut it close…
“Yes, I’m…I’m fine, thanks,” Link muttered as he breathed a sigh of relief and wiped some sweat off his brow. “What…what was that thing?”
“It’s a ReDead,” Sheik answered. “It’s the resurrected carcass of someone who died fighting against Ganondorf. It’s Ganondorf’s cruel way of pitting our former friends against us. The ReDead roam Hyrule Castle New City as its shadowy protectors, rooting out anyone who might try something. They look weak, but if you’re not careful they are very dangerous. Their screams can freeze someone’s soul just long enough for them to tear off their victims’ necks and rip out their hearts.”
The description of the ReDead sent a shiver down Link’s spine. “I’m…I’m sorry about that. I never knew…”
“Don’t worry, I was here to watch your back. But please be careful next time. I had to save you at the last minute because I didn’t want to get frozen by this ReDead’s scream. We were lucky this time, but we shouldn’t always trust luck from now on.”
Link nodded his head. “I guess you’re right. So, why don’t we get out of here?”
Sheik turned his gaze to Link’s, and Link was sure the Sheikah was smiling. “That sounds like a great idea. Let’s go.”
Even the drawbridge wasn’t anything to look at; it had collapsed in the middle and was partially submerged in the moat, which was filled with a slimy muck instead of crystal-clear water. Link and Sheik had to jump across a small gap to get across the broken drawbridge before they could set foot on solid ground. When Link’s foot touched the soil, he somehow felt a little bit more confident in whatever he was about to face.
“Okay, Sheik, so why don’t we head for the Lost Woods and…?”
“I’m sorry, but I have to leave you for now.”
Link jerked his head around to face Sheik. “What? What do you mean…?”
“As I said before, I have to leave you to do much of your quest without my help. Now is one of those times. I have been waiting for your awakening for several days now, and I need to return to Kakariko Village so I can let everyone know I am still alive. However, there is still something you must do before you can set out for the Lost Woods and the Temple of the Forest.”
“Oh, and what’s that?”
“You need a horse.”
Link’s eyes widened in surprise. “A…a horse?”
“Yes. Hyrule has grown full of Ganondorf’s evil, and there will be times when you need to traverse the land as fast as possible. Walking will not be good enough; a horse is the only way you can move across the land quickly enough. And horses have become a luxury during these times of war, so no one will simply give you one.”
“So how exactly am I going to get one if they’re so valued?”
Sheik turned to meet Link’s gaze. “Do you know of the Lon Lon Ranch?”
Link’s heart skipped a beat when he heard that name. “Lon Lon Ranch? Yes, I know of it. Why do you ask?”
“The Lon Lon Ranch is the only place the still breeds horses in Hyrule, but the owner refuses to sell them except to those with unheard of amounts of money. He is a very cruel man who sympathizes with Ganondorf, and he lives a lavish lifestyle because of it. But he still possesses some of the strongest horses in the land, and they are what you need for your journey.”
Link couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He knew Talon well enough to know that the man Sheik had described was not Talon. But then again, who knows what Ganondorf had done to him? Anything could happen in seven years. And if Talon had indeed become what Sheik had depicted, then what had become of Malon…?
“But if he only sells his horses to those with lots of money, then how can I buy…?”
“Ask him what his best horse will cost, and tell him you’ll pay it back fourfold in the future. Once we defeat Ganondorf, I will see to it personally that he gets his money. If he still refuses to sell, then do whatever you can to get. Steal it if you have to. I know it isn’t the most ethical thing to do, but time is running out. Then, once you get a horse and maybe some supplies, head to Kakariko Village, where I will meet up with you and go with you to the Lost Woods.”
Link couldn’t help but agree with the plan. “Sounds good to me. But where is the ranch from here…?”
Sheik pointed in the exact opposite direction of the city walls. “It’s a little over a day’s walk in that direction, to the south. And once you get the horse, Kakariko Village is to the northeast of the village. Hopefully, you can get proper directions at the ranch. But don’t let the owner of the ranch know who you are; if he finds out, he might tell Ganondorf, and that’s the last thing we need…oh, and here. You’ll need this.”
Sheik then produced from nowhere a small brown sack and gave it to Link. “This food should last until you get to the ranch. And just hope the owner isn’t stingy enough to sell you more supplies. Good luck on your journey, Link. I’ll see you again in Kakariko Village.”
Thanking Sheik for the supplies, Link looked down to place the sack on his belt…and his suddenly noticed something he hadn’t seen before. Several of his things were still on his belt, including his glass bottle and his ocarina bag, which he could tell was holding two ocarinas: Saria’s fairy ocarina and the Ocarina of Time. Smiling, Link fastened the bag to his belt and looked up to face Sheik again…
…but he was gone. He had disappeared, as if he had never existed. All that was left was a gentle wind and the Sheikah’s words echoing in his mind. Perplexed, Link scratched his head…and almost immediately felt something move under his cap.
The moment he remembered her was the moment he heard her tiny, familiar voice. “Is it time to wake up yet…?”