Zelda felt her face turn red as the quarterstaff struck her right side and sent her sprawling to the ground with a soft thud. But her face didn’t redden out of fear for her life; it was more out of embarrassment at being beaten by Sheik yet again.
By now, she was used to being bested by her personal trainer so she managed to pick herself up rather quickly. The pain in her side was now also routine; therefore she made no mention of it while making sure she stood as straight as possible to face her teacher, her own quarterstaff firmly in hand. Sheik responded by twirling his quarterstaff around in the air several times before slamming its end against the earth.
It felt somewhat embarrassing for someone her own age to defeat her like this so easily. Then again, she’d take being beaten by Sheik over being beaten by someone even younger any day…
“You’re leaving yourself open to attack too often, princess,” Sheik suddenly said, grinning from ear to ear. “I had several opportunities to strike you down before that final blow; I didn’t take those opportunities to see how long it would take you to adapt. I hope you understand an enemy soldier won’t give you that luxury, don’t you?”
“Yes, I understand,” replied Zelda with a sigh as she stroked the area Sheik had struck to knock her down.
“Good,” Sheik mused. “Then I’m sure you also understand how necessary it is to be prepared!”
Without warning, Sheik suddenly charged at the princess, his quarterstaff ready to strike from any possible angle. Zelda, caught off guard by this unexpected attack, raised her quarterstaff to defend herself from her instructor’s assault. Amazingly, she managed to strike away three direct attacks to her upper body, but she was still too surprised to prepare herself for Sheik using his weapon to hit behind her legs and trip her up.
The moment she landed on her face, Sheik stopped his attack and uttered, “And I’m sure you’re aware that even the enemy, no matter how stupid it may be, can also be prepared.”
Zelda grunted a reply of acknowledgement as she struggled to get up once again; the fall hadn’t exactly been pleasant. When her feet were planted on the ground, Sheik didn’t wait for her to stand fully erect before he asked, “Tell me, princess, what is the one thing you need to know in order to survive the battlefield?”
“That…” Zelda muttered as she strained to straighten her back, “…that the enemy…has the exact same objective as you do.”
“And what is that objective?”
“To win the battle.”
“And how do you make sure you are the one to reach that objective?”
“You must be ready.”
“Ready for what?”
Sheik’s eyes betrayed the smile underneath his mask. “Good. I’m glad you remember that. Now, all we have to do is apply it…”
“Sheik, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
Zelda’s request took Sheik by surprise, but he quickly regained his composure. “Sure thing, go right ahead.”
Zelda took a deep breath before asking, “What’s the point of learning how to use a quarterstaff if I’m meant to use blades as my primary weapons? Shouldn’t I be focusing on using a sword or a dagger instead of wasting my time with weapons I’ll never use?”
Sheik hesitated for a moment, his eyes enlarging from sheer intrigue. Then, out of the blue, he laughed. In fact, he laughed so loudly that Princess Zelda thought he was laughing at her because he found her question as some ridiculous joke.
“Sheik, what do you think you’re doing?” Zelda ordered, vexed. “I demand you stop laughing this instant and…”
“Draw your sword, princess,” Sheik suddenly stuttered through his laughter.
Zelda jerked her head back in puzzlement. “Draw my sword?”
“You hear me,” Sheik uttered, his amusement dying down. “It’s on your back, isn’t it? Just put down you quarterstaff and draw your sword.”
“Just do it.”
Not one to argue with a teacher of any kind, even one her own age, Zelda threw her quarterstaff to the ground and reached behind her for her sword. Moments later, the mighty blade was exposed to the morning light, its edges sharp enough to split a small tree from its roots with a single swing.
“Good,” Sheik beamed as he fingered his quarterstaff. “Now attack me.”
Sheik’s unexpected command caught Zelda off guard. “Attack you…but Sheik, you’re practically defenseless against…”
“Zelda,” Sheik uttered somewhat firmly, “I am your teacher and you will do as I say. And right now, I say, ‘attack me.’ So attack me.”
Princess Zelda groaned. “Very well, if that’s your wish.”
Zelda then readied her sword for an attack, an attack she knew so well from her earlier training with Sheik. She made sure her grip was firmly in place, raised the blade at the proper angle, shifted her feet correctly, and made sure to watch for any possible attack from Sheik. When she felt the moment was right, she pushed herself forward and moved her sword into its attack pattern. She didn’t scream out, because she felt such a thing was unladylike.
As she made her advance, she was partially amazed to see Sheik not make a single move to counter her attack. She didn’t know what to think of this, but continued with her attack anyway. Then, moments when it appeared she was going to hit him, Sheik stepped – yes, stepped! – out of the blade’s path by sidestepping to the left. Zelda, in a panic, changed her sword’s course so she could make another attack.
To her complete astonishment, Sheik awaited her second attack with nothing more than his quarterstaff. He held his staff up to block her blade, and when the two weapons met Zelda was shocked when her razor-sharp blade didn’t slice through Sheik’s wooden stick. She also didn’t recover from the surprise quickly enough to block Sheik’s counteroffensive.
With a few smooth and swift maneuvers, Sheik used his quarterstaff to knock Zelda’s sword from her hand, punch her in the stomach to force her to bend down, and slap her firmly across the face to knock her down once again. The feeling of her head striking the ground wasn’t nearly as painful as the three blows Sheik had just used to overpower her…and with a quarterstaff, no less!
Thankfully, Sheik didn’t gloat over his victory as she expected him to, although he did have something to say. “Now do you see, princess? It doesn’t matter what weapon you use. If your enemy is well trained, he can defeat you if you cannot stand up to him. It doesn’t matter if you use a sword, bow and arrow, or even a quarterstaff. Any and all weapons can be used to against you, as I just demonstrated.”
“But…” Zelda stuttered as she toiled to stand up again, “But you haven’t answered my question…”
“Yes, I have,” Sheik interrupted. “There will be times when you will not be able to use the weapon with which you are most skilled. There will be times when all you have are weapons you never considered your primary weapon. What can work for you enemy can work for you. If the weapon with which you are most skillful is unavailable, you must be ready to use anything at your disposal.
“That is why I am teaching you to use weapons other than the sword and knife. Look at what happened just now. You had a deadly blade of steel, I a lowly piece of wood, and yet I disposed of you easily. If I were an enemy, you’d be lying on the ground dead while all I’d have was a single scratch on my quarterstaff. A scratch is a very cheap price to pay for victory, and the enemy knows that. And that is what I want you to know, as well as everything else I’m meant to teach you. Do you understand?”
Zelda was standing on her feet by now, although she hadn’t yet regained full control of her balance. Still, she did have the sense to answer Sheik’s question. “I…I guess I understand.”
“Good,” Sheik uttered with a beam on his face. “Now, sheathe your sword and pick up your quarterstaff. I want you to perfect your defense today at the very least.”
Although she felt quite tired, Zelda decided not to complain and argue with Sheik. Replacing her sword in its scabbard behind her back, Zelda scanned around for her quarterstaff. When she found it, she shuffled her way towards it to pick it up. But all the while, she made sure to keep an eye on Sheik; she wasn’t going to let him surprise her the moment she stood up straight again.
When her fingers closed around the piece of wood, Sheik decided to comment on Zelda’s attentiveness. “Good, good. You’re learning fast. We just might get to basic attacks today as well. But that isn’t going too fast for you, is it, princess?”
As she made sure her feet were firmly planted in the soil, Zelda released a mild sneer on her lips. “Why don’t you ask that question after we’ve gotten there?”
Sheik didn’t have a clever response for Zelda’s wry question. All he did was simply reply, “Sure. Why not?”
The first signs that things had changed at Kakariko Village for the worse came not from the village itself but from Death Mountain. The mighty sentinel that stood guard over Impa’s hometown with its towering build and awesome presence had undergone a drastic transformation, one that filled Link with some kind of prophetic dread. While the mountain hadn’t exactly sustained a gentle and inviting atmosphere, the dark clouds looming over the mountain’s summit and the unexplainable shadows dancing along the mount’s surface made the peak far less appealing.
It was as if Death Mountain had gone from forbidden to heartless, and to Link that meant a lot, especially concerning the Gorons.
“I hope they’re all right,” he thought as he maintained his course to Kakariko Village. “I hope nothing’s happened to Darunia…or Malatite…”
While Death Mountain was the harbinger, Kakariko Village itself was the confirmation. Link remembered seeing the magnificent village from the windmill with Malon; even in faint twilight the village had then still possessed an air of pride and simplistic splendor. But not anymore; the daylight betrayed a much more depressing vision of the once-handsome town.
While the changes to Kakariko Village weren’t as grave or serious as the ones in Hyrule Castle New City, Link couldn’t help but recall New City’s horrifying transformation. Everything that once held the privilege of being colorful and vibrant now stood gloomy and drab. The walls of buildings boasted cracks as complex as clumsy spider webs and roofs as cluttered as rotting bird nests, and vines crept into every available space for them to grow. A once cheerful atmosphere lay buried under a mood of misery; there were few, if any, people outside under the noon of the dead sky looming overhead.
To Link, Kakariko’s conversion was just as haunting as the conversion of Hyrule Castle New City…maybe even more so, as unlike in New City people still had to live in this rotting environment.
As Epona carried the Hero of Time into the decaying town, Link couldn’t find anything to say to Navi, who was sitting on his left shoulder. Therefore, Navi started the conversation for him.
“Link…I don’t remember this place that well, but…it’s awful, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is, Navi. I was somewhat hoping Kakariko Village hadn’t been affected that much, but that’s obviously not the case.”
“So what are we going to do now?”
“Well, we’re first going to find Sheik. He said we’re going to the Lost Woods after I got a horse, so hopefully we’ll get that underway as soon as possible.”
Navi hesistated. “Link…are you worried about everyone back in the Lost Woods?”
Link nodded. “Of course I am, Navi. If I didn’t need to come back here for Sheik, I’d probably be there by now.”
“Saria…I’m coming Saria…I’ll be there soon…I promise…”
“Excuse me, boy, can I help you?”
Link instinctively pulled Epona’s reins back to draw her to a stop and he looked down to his right. An old man with a wrinkled face, crooked posture, and ragged clothes was glaring up at him with two small eyes, his curled lips giving off a hint of suspicion in his words.
“You don’t happen to be one of those accursed bounty hunters, do you?” the old man continued, threatening to wave around the twisted walking stick in his right hand. “We don’t cater to your kind around here, so if you’re here to sell your cursed trappings you can just turn around and…”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not a bounty hunter,” Link politely interrupted.
The old man didn’t let up his wary glower. “You aren’t, are you? Well, then, where did you get your horse? Horses are hard to get these days, and by the looks of things yours is strong enough to traverse Hyrule and back again. Such a horse can only be bought with a king’s ransom, and you don’t look like anyone from any kind of nobility. If you’re not a bounty hunter, then what are you? A mercenary? That’ll explain that sword on your back…”
“No, I’m nothing like that,” Link interjected courteously, although he was getting a little impatient. “I’m just here to find someone. Do you happen to know someone called Sheik?”
At the mention of that name, the old man suddenly froze in fear, as if Link had uttered something forbidden. But he quickly calmed down and tried to look and sound resilient as he replied, “There’s no one by the name of Sheik here in Kakariko Village. So there’s no reason for you to stick around here.”
Without another word, the old man turned around and briskly hobbled away, disappearing behind a nearby house a moment later.
Link was the one most puzzled by the old man’s bizarre behavior, but Navi was the one who spoke up first. “I’m pretty sure that guy is hiding something, Link. I could feel his uneasiness. But still, maybe he’s right. Are you sure Sheik told you to go to Kakariko Village?”
“I’m pretty sure he did,” Link answered. “Although I am starting to feel a little uncomfortable. Why isn’t Sheik here to greet us? You’d think after what he told me back at Hyrule Castle New City he’d be waiting for…”
“Sir, what is your name?”
The soft, high-pitched voice came from Link’s left, so he redirected his attention to his other side and looked down. Instead of a withered old man, the owner of the voice was a short, lanky boy of about five years with short brown hair, a healthy complexion, and decent-looking clothes. He didn’t have the distrusting look the old man had, so Link didn’t get the feeling the boy feared him in any way.
“Excuse me?” Link asked calmly. “What did you just say?”
“What is your name, sir?” the boy repeated patiently. “I’d like to know your name.”
“You do, do you?” Link inquired, feeling a tad bit confused. “Well, if you really want to know…my name’s Link.”
The boy’s face seemed to brighten up a little when Link told him his name, and his lips twisted into a faint yet noticeable smile. “Then please come with me, sir. My mother would like to meet you.”
Still maintaining the smile on his face, the boy then circled around and headed in a direction that led deeper into the village. He moved so quickly that Link didn’t have a chance to ask the boy why he had to follow him. Starting to feel more and more confused, Link impulsively scratched his head.
“This feels a little unsettling. Should we follow him, Navi?” he asked without thinking.
“Well, there’s nothing else we can do. Besides, maybe he’ll lead us to Sheik…or maybe his mother will, although I’m not exactly sure how she can possibly know you.”
“Let’s worry about that when we meet her,” Link asserted. “Still, we should be on the lookout for anything suspicious. I’m counting on you to watch my back, Navi. Just yell if you see anything.”
“Already ahead of you,” the fairy beamed proudly.
Giving Navi an approving nod, Link then turned his attention to Epona and whipped her reins lightly. The horse snorted faintly before moving forward in a trot to catch up to the boy, who had already gained quite a distance between himself and the Hero of Time.
“Here we are, sir. My mother’s house.”
Link drew Epona to a halt so he could get a better look at the house that the boy was proclaiming as his mother’s home. It wasn’t a particularly special house; it easily blended into the rest of the village with its decaying structure and dismal façade. And yet Link had a strange feeling that this house possessed something special, something that set it apart from everything else in Kakariko Village.
“I see,” Link uttered to the boy as he kept his gaze on the house, making sure to scan every available piece of the structure. “So why don’t you go and get your mother while I wait out here…?”
“Oh, I can’t do that, sir,” the boy interrupted with a melodramatic tone. “My mother is old and frail, and the wars have sadly left her crippled. She couldn’t come outside to meet you even if she wanted to. Please, sir, step inside so you can meet her. You’ll find her sitting beyond the door, waiting for you.”
Link tried not to look at the boy, but couldn’t help but steal a brief glance at him. The boy’s face was smiling broadly, as if trying to hide something behind his eyes. Something in the boy’s words didn’t make sense to him, something he thought he understood and yet couldn’t grasp completely. A voice in his head warned him not to trust the boy’s words…and yet told him to trust the boy anyway.
The inkling was so uncanny he almost wondered why he was feeling it…
“Link, this doesn’t feel right,” Navi abruptly whispered in his ear. “I think we should get out of here…”
“Actually, we’re going in,” Link calmly interjected.
The fairy fluttered nervously by his ear, resonating her fluttering like a smooth rasp. “But this boy is lying, Link,” she hissed loudly. “I can tell he’s lying, and I’m sure even you can as well. So why…?”
“Because I have to,” Link firmly asserted. “I know this doesn’t feel right, but something tells me I have to do what this boy says.”
“And I suppose it’s the same ‘something’ that told you to fight the Dodongos and get swallowed by Lord Jabu-Jabu?”
Link nodded gently. “It just might be.”
The fairy’s light started flickering wildly. “Well, why don’t you tell your ‘something’ that maybe it’s better for us not to rush into things without thinking the situation through first? For once I’d actually like to feel safe before heading into circumstances I don’t feel particularly comfortable with. Maybe you think it’s all right just to do whatever you want, but I’m your fairy for a reason, Link, and that reason is to be your guardian. Not your friend or your loyal companion – those are expected consequences – but your guardian. And as your guardian fairy, I have to say that what you are thinking is stupid and illogical, and…”
“Navi…” Link began before he grunted frustratingly, shook his head once, and continued, “Just…shut up.”
Link then quickly flipped his right leg over Epona’s and slid off the horse’s saddle with an effortless motion, not giving the fairy time to counter his demand. When his feet were planted on the soil, he looked up at Navi and uttered, “If you want to stay out here, then fine. Do what you will. But I’ll tell you something right now, Navi. I may do things that seem stupid to you, but if I didn’t do things like that then where will we be right now?”
Link’s question, accompanied by his heated glare, made sure the fay couldn’t answer immediately. The Hero of Time then gave her a stiff nod and turned his attention to the boy, who was unwearyingly waiting for Link by the door of his mother’s house.
“Would you mind tying Epona up for me?” Link asked the boy.
“Oh, not at all, sir,” the boy cried happily. “But please hurry inside. My mother’s eager to see you.”
“If you insist,” Link sighed.
Link then took the necessary steps towards the door so he could open the door and step inside. Navi took about half a minute before she finally decided to fly up to her charge and sit on his shoulder. Of course, being Navi, she couldn’t help but pout out loud, more to herself than to Link.
“Fine, do whatever you want. Just don’t come running to me when you’re in trouble, because you know I’ll say that I told you so…”
“Navi,” Link interjected as he grabbed the door handle, “don’t make me hit you.”
The first thing Link noticed immediately was the inside of the house was peculiarly dark. The window curtains had been drawn shut and there were no flames of any kind burning anywhere. The only available light came from the open doorway, and it revealed very little inside except for a table, a couple of chairs, and a fireplace at the far end of the room. There was nothing else, and that included the boy’s mother.
“Waiting for me beyond the door, huh?”
Already starting to feel uncomfortable yet not ready to abandon his gut feeling yet, Link stepped into the shadowy room slowly, making sure he left the door open so he could see where he was going. He took several steps into the room before he decided to call out.
“Hello? Is anyone here?”
There was no answer.
“Link, let’s get out of here. I don’t want there to actually be a reason for me to say that I told you so…”
“Just be quiet, Navi,” Link urged as he pressed further into the room, his eyes scanning the dark walls for any signs of life. He tried to sound confident, but he couldn’t help but move his hand near his sword in case he needed it….
Without warning, the front door behind him slammed shut, blocking the much-needed light that had Link needed to see. Link quickly snapped to attention, his muscles tensing and his hands bracing for anything that might come his way. His mind instantaneously considered drawing the Master Sword, but he straight away decided not to do so; swinging the sword in complete darkness would be irrational and just plain dumb.
“Who’s there?” Link demanded boldly, his eyes needlessly searching the darkness. “Whoever you are, you will not get the better of me…”
“Be still, Hero of Time. It is only I.”
“That voice…” Link murmured in a softer tone. “Is…is that you…?”
Suddenly, a bright flame gushed from inside the fireplace at the far end of the room, bathing the room in faint yet sufficient light. Link quickly glanced in the direction of the fireplace and immediately saw a figure standing directly before it. But instead of the person he had first expected, it was Sheik, standing as tall and enigmatic as ever. Link knew he should be glad that he finally found Sheik, but instead he felt a disappointed frown creep onto his lips.
It didn’t take Sheik long to notice. “Is something the matter, Hero of Time?”
“No, no, it’s nothing,” Link defended. “Nothing important. So…are you the mother that that boy mentioned outside?”
“Boy? You mean Andrew? Oh, yes, I’m that mother he spoke of. I told Andrew to be on the look out for a man wearing green attire and riding a horse, and to bring him to me when he arrived. That little charade he gave was to protect me from possible spies of Ganondorf. You see, I’m one of the more important people Ganondorf wants dead, almost as much as my aunt Impa. So the villagers do their best not to reveal that Kakariko Village is in fact a haven for rebels against Ganondorf, and that means keeping out any and all possible spies like bounty hunters and suspicious travelers.”
“Well, that explains the old man’s attitude,” Link thought dryly before saying, “And Princess Zelda? Does Ganondorf want her dead as well?”
Sheik hesitated momentarily before answering, “Actually, we’re not quite sure. For some reason, Ganondorf has put out no reward for her, although it’s a given Ganondorf would love to have her in his hands. We can only assume he wants her alive, because bounty hunters and mercenaries can be rather cruel to their prey. If you’re that worried about her, then I can assure you she’s safe. I cannot reveal her to you now for fear of her safety. But you’ll meet her in due time, I promise you.”
Sheik’s tone then turned serious. “In any case, that’s beside the task at hand. Link, I’m assuming you managed to get a horse from the ranch.”
Realizing it would be best to focus on what was necessary rather than what was preferred, Link nodded firmly and uttered, “Yes, I did. I even…”
“Good,” Sheik interrupted as he took a couple of steps towards the table and gently slammed his palms against the table’s surface. “Then come here so I can show you our next move.”
Deciding not to argue, Link shuffled his way to the table at a brisk pace. He didn’t have time to stop when Sheik already started demonstrating their “next move.” The Sheikah moved his right hand and used his extended forefinger to point to a sizeable piece of parchment stretched out on the table. When Link had the chance to look down, he discovered it was a map, and by the lettering inscribed in the parchment’s borders he realized it was a map of Hyrule.
Before Link had a chance to ask anything, Sheik began talking.
“We are here,” he uttered as he placed his pointed finger on a graphical representation of a town on the enormous chart. “This is Kakariko Village.” Sheik then moved his finger around the map, naming each location as he pointed them out. “Here’s Lon Lon Ranch, where you just came from. Here’s Hyrule Castle New City, a couple of days ride from here. And here are the outskirts of the Lost Woods, which will take a little longer. Right about here is the Kokiri Forest, the section of woods where Kokiri Village is located. The Forest Temple is located somewhere deep in the Lost Woods, but without the Kokiri’s help I can’t find it.”
Sheik then looked up to lock gazes with Link. “And that’s where you come in. Hopefully the Kokiri will listen to you, as you once lived with them. If you can get them to tell us where the Forest Temple is, then you can enter the temple and awaken the Sage of the Forest. After that, we…”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” Link suddenly hollered, forcing Sheik to break off. “What do you mean by that?”
“Mean by what?”
“You just indicated that only I would go inside the temple. Aren’t you going in with me?”
Sheik paused, as if pondering whether or not to reveal something to Link. When he finally did speak, he spoke in a gentle, almost feminine tone. “I cannot help you. As I told you back at Hyrule Castle New City, I will only help you when I can. I have other duties to perform other than aiding you in your quest, such as planning for the war against Ganondorf. But I will go with you as far as the temple, because there is one important task I must do with you there…”
Sheik’s eyes suddenly widened with recognition. “Which reminds me…Link, do you still have the Ocarina of Time?”
“The Ocarina of…oh, yes, don’t worry,” Link uttered as he confidently patted the pouch containing the magical instrument. “It’s safe with me.”
“Good. Do not reveal to anyone that you have the Ocarina of Time and do not let it out of your sight; it has powers other than opening the Door of Time, and should that power fall into the wrong hands…well, I don’t have to tell you about that, now do I?”
“No, you don’t,” Link agreed.
“Very well. Now, as I was saying, after you’ve awakened the Sage of the Forest, you’ll make your way back to Kakariko Village, where I’ll take you to the next temple. But we’ll worry about that when the time comes. For now, I’ll tell you what we’re first going to do.”
Sheik then looked back at the map. “We’ll leave Kakariko Village tonight at sunset so that no one will see us; you see, I want the villagers to know as little as possible about our operations. Any information will put them in terrible danger should Ganondorf find out about this place. We should arrive at Kokiri Village in two to three days if we travel fast, and then we’ll pray to the Three Goddesses that they’ll open up to you.”
Sheik then looked up. “How does that sound?”
Link didn’t even need the time to think it over; he already had his answer. “It sounds perfectly all right to me,” he replied, trying to contain his excitement that he was finally going back home. “Is there anything we have to do before we leave?”
“Other than get supplies and such, not really…oh, wait there is one thing. Wait right here.”
Sheik then turned around and headed to the fireplace, where he reached for a small, rectangular box sitting on the mantelpiece. The Sheikah grabbed the container, dusted it off somewhat, then headed back to Link and placed it on the table beside the map of Hyrule. Link didn’t even have the opportunity to ask Sheik what was inside the box when Sheik lifted the lid with both hands and urged Link to look inside. The Hero of Time did so, and what he saw left him amazed and puzzled at the same time.
The object was slightly bigger than his hand and nearly as long as his arm. It appeared to be some kind of simple machinery, but its purpose was hardly immediately evident. One end consisted of a piece of sturdy metal that was obviously meant to be the contraption’s handle, while the other end held a deadly looking spear head. Wrapped around the midsection in a precise manner was a chain of some kind, although there was no visible explanation as to what the chain was meant to do.
“What is this thing?” Link asked curiously.
“It’s called a hookshot,” Sheik replied. “It was one of Hyrule’s most advanced weapons, given to Hylian ranger troops when they were sent in to help neighboring countries with bandit uprisings. They were too dangerous to keep around the palace, but I managed to save this one a few years ago from a dead Hylian soldier. I’m giving it to you because I’m sure it would come in handy. Go ahead, pick it up.”
“Wow, thanks,” Link uttered as he reached and picked up the hookshot by its handle. The grip fit his hand perfectly, as if it were meant for his hand only. But even though he was grateful for the weapon, he was still curious as to what it did. So he asked Sheik to reveal its purpose.
“Oh, it’s simply, really. See that small trigger on the side of the handle, the one by your thumb?”
“Yeah, I see it,” Link answered after taking a brief moment to locate it.
“Now press it in gently until you feel some resistance. Just don’t press it down all the way.”
Link complied with Sheik’s instructions, and the moment he felt resistance in the trigger’s movement the hookshot reacted. Suddenly, a tiny yet perceptible beam of light discharged from the top of the spear head, a beam strong enough to create a small red dot wherever the contraction pointed. Link, more intrigued that stunned, considered passing his hand through the beam before wondering if the beam was the weapon Sheik had mentioned.
When he asked Sheik if this was so, Sheik shook his head. “No, the beam is merely a targeting sight, created by a light-emitting ruby embedded in the hookshot’s head. The real weapon will shoot out if you press the trigger down all the way….”
“You mean like this?”
But Sheik had no time to stop Link when the Hero of Time pressed the already embedded trigger button past its resistance point.
With a loud bang and incredible force, the hookshot’s spear head suddenly discharged from the main body, sailing through the air like a deadly bird without wings. Dragging behind it was the chain, creating a rhythmic clatter along its circular wound path around the weapon’s body as it left the hookshot to follow the fired head. Everything happened so fast that Link didn’t have time to think before another loud crack echoed across the room. Link looked to see that the spear head had rooted itself in the nearby wall…right where the ruby targeting sight had been pointing!
Link whistled. “All right, I see what you where…whoa!”
Without warning, the hookshot flew from Link’s hand and soared through the air towards the implanted spear head, collecting the chain as it moved with the same rattle as before. It found the hooked blade a split moment later, giving off one final clap as the main body and head collided. The hookshot then fell silent, hanging on the wooden wall by the spear head like a dangerous animal ready to pounce.
Link was so amazed by what had happened that he couldn’t find anything to say. Sheik decided to take the opportunity to speak in Link’s stead.
“I was going to warn you, but I guess you’ve seen for yourself. The hookshot’s real weapon is its ability to fire its hook at great distances and with remarkable precision. Its firing spring is so powerful it can pierce anything but the strongest stone and thickest armor. But its recoil spring can be used for things other than retrieving the hook; it can also be used to drag the weapon’s owner to unreachable places. If you had held onto that thing just now, it would’ve slammed you right against the wall. You have to be careful with the hookshot, because it can kill. But if you use it wisely, I’m sure it’ll help you greatly in your journey ahead.”
Feeling a little sheepish, Link decided to respond by just saying, “Thanks.”
Link then scuffled his way to the embedded hookshot, grabbed the handle, and tried to pull it out of the wall. To no surprise, the hook refused to release its grip on the wood. Link gave it several good yanks, but none of them even seemed to loosen the hook’s grasp. He was about to consider using his sword to hack the wood around it when Sheik spoke up.
“Press the trigger until the targeting sight is activated. That will retract the hook’s catch blades.”
Sure enough, when Link pressed the trigger until he found the resistance mark again, the hookshot’s hook popped free from the wall, ready for another shot. Smiling at his new weapon, Link moved the hookshot to an open space on his belt, making sure the trigger wouldn’t accidentally be compressed in any way. When that was finished, he turned his attention back to Sheik, who was waiting patiently.
“Well, thanks for the weapon, Sheik,” Link expressed. “I’m sure it will come in handy someday. So, are we going to get supplies now or is there else something we need to do before then?”
“Well,” Sheik said after a moment’s pause, “there is something I wanted to do first, but unfortunately he isn’t here right now, so we can’t really do it.”
“After showing you inside, Andrew was supposed to bring someone here. He’s someone who came to Kakariko Village sometime after Ganondorf took over Hyrule, and he’s been here ever since. He had somehow heard about me sending you to Lon Lon Ranch and asked me if he could talk to you when you returned. But either Andrew forgot or he can’t find him, so I guess that…”
Just then, a soft yet audible knock sounded on the other side of the door.
“Who is it?” Sheik called out.
“Andrew, mother,” muttered the familiar voice of the young boy. “I found the man who wanted to speak to your friend.”
“Well, things certainly have a way of playing out, don’t they?” Sheik said to Link before he called out to Andrew, “All right, let him in.”
A moment of silence ensued, followed by the door slowly yet steadily creaking open. When the door had opened enough, a man slightly shorter than Link stepped into the room, his back slouching and his arms drooping. At first Link thought he had seen the man before, but when the man turned his face in his direction Link instantly recognized him.
It was a wonder how seven years couldn’t change his appearance that much, but heartbreaking as to how those years could still change his character. He was as potbellied as ever, and yet now that extra weight seemed geared more towards fat than strength. His once-powerful arms now hung like useless necessities, and his stride moved unevenly and heavily. The hair on his scalp and across his upper lips was bushy and unclean with a few lines of grayness running through several patches. His eyes, once filled with jolliness and cheer, now only harbored misery and despair. Gone was the face worn by hard work and dedication; all that was left was a face worn by agony and sadness.
The transformation of the humble ranch owner was so unbelievable that Link couldn’t even speak properly.
“You…you…you’re…” Link stuttered, but Sheik interrupted him.
“Talon,” the Sheikah acknowledged before pointing to Link. “This is the one you wanted to speak to. He’s just returned from Lon Lon Ranch, so he should be able to answer anything you need to know.”
“Thank you, Sheik,” Talon uttered in a voice that sounded exhausted and worn out. The former farm owner then turned his gaze to face Link. “You…you’ve been to the ranch, young man?”
All Link could do was nod. The gesture seemed to make Talon smile slightly before the farm owner hobbled his way to the Hero of Time and stopped shy of a hair’s breath from Link. Talon then stared deep into Link’s eyes, seemed to think for a moment, and then finally continued speaking.
“Young man, I need you to tell me one thing. One thing, and that’s all I want to ask of you. Is my daughter all right? Can you tell me if my daughter is safe?”
“Your…daughter…” Link repeated, still unable to find the right words to say. Unfortunately, Talon took that as a bad sign and used his enormous arms to grab Link’s shoulders and gently shake the Kokiri back and forth.
“My daughter!” the ranch owner cried in a frantic tone. “You must’ve seen her! You must have! Please tell me you’ve seen her! Please tell me she’s all right! I won’t be able to live with myself if anything’s happened to her! Please, young man, tell me something! Anything! Tell me she’s all right! Tell me…!”
“Talon!” Link suddenly screamed, grabbing Talon’s arms and forcing the man to stop shaking him. Suddenly, Link knew what to say; he didn’t know how, but he didn’t care. He locked gazes with Talon, took a deep breath, and said as quickly yet calmly as he could, “Talon, don’t worry. Malon is perfectly safe. In fact, she is probably as well as she can possibly be without her father.”
At the mention of his daughter’s name, Talon’s eyes widened in amazement. When Link gave him the chance to speak, Talon took it. “You…you know my daughter’s name? How did you know her name? I didn’t tell you. Did you speak to her?”
“That and more,” Link uttered with a hint of pride in his voice. “And I not only know her, I also know you, Talon.”
“Know…me?” Talon asked, confused. “What are you talking about…?”
“You don’t remember me, but I remember you perfectly. I remember the look on your face when I woke you up after you had fallen asleep at Hyrule Castle. I remember how glad you were right here in Kakariko Village to take me to the farm. But I most of all I remember when, on the ranch, you hosted a party and told me it would be a night I would never forget. Well, guess what, Talon? You were right; I never forgot it.”
At first, Talon was just as confused as before, but just as Link finished his little speech his mouth gaped open in realization and his eyes blinked in disbelief. “L…Link? Link? You’re Link? You’re the boy who came to the farm seven years ago?”
“Yes, I am, but I have something else to tell you, Talon. The farm is yours again, Talon. Ingo no longer has control over the ranch. Malon is running it right now, and she’s as happy as can be. But she’ll be a lot happier if you go home to her. She’s waiting for you, Talon. She’s waiting for her daddy to come home.”
When Talon heard those words, his first reaction was to hold back his shock and to make sure he was breathing steadily. But then, all of a sudden, he abandoned those ideas and burst into tears, falling to his knees and burying his face in his hands. Link placed a comforting hand on the man’s shoulder, and after a few minutes Talon looked up with his tear-stained eyes, his face somehow smiling as if he were laughing.
“I…I don’t know how this happened,” he muttered through his crying-choked throat, “but I know I have you to thank for this. You have no idea how much this means to me. You have no idea how it makes me feel that I can see Malon again. I never would’ve thought this day would come, but thanks to you…I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done. I don’t know how I can repay you for this. You’ve given something back to me I can never replace. I don’t know what I can do to thank you…”
“You can do one thing for me,” Link gently interjected with a smile. “I want you to hurry back to the ranch as quickly as you can, and when you get there give Malon the biggest hug you’ve ever given her and tell her how important she is to you. Right now she wants more than anything else to see you, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to disappoint her.”
Link partially said those words because they were based on what she told him, but the main reason was because he was sure that was exactly what Talon wanted to do. And the farm owner’s eyes seemed to show it; as he stood up, Talon wiped away his tears, firmly locked in his smile, and nodded almost fiercely.
“Yes, you’re right,” he declared confidently. “I’ll leave immediately…no, wait, I’ll need to get some supplies…and I’ll need a horse to get there as quickly as I can…” Talon abruptly turned his gaze toward Sheik. “Sheik, is it at all possible for me to borrow a horse? I’ll bring it right back, I promise…”
“Talon,” Sheik uttered with a smile under his collar, “I’ll give you the horse on one condition: that you’ll sell us your own horses at the same reasonable prices you’ve always sold them for.”
Talon’s smile somehow seemed to widen. “You bet I will!” he boomed excitedly. “In fact, I just may give them out for free because I’m feeling so great!” He then returned his attention to Link. “Thank you again, Link…thank you for all you’ve done. I always knew I’d see you again, and thanks to you the ranch is safe I’ll finally be able to see Malon again. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Link would’ve slapped himself if he didn’t smile there and then, so he did. “You’re welcome…”
“Have you ever considered marrying my daughter?”
It was amazing how someone could choke when he didn’t even have anything in his mouth. When Talon asked that question, Link thought he had taken a bite out of Deku bark and hadn’t swallowed it without chewing it first. He leaned over so he could cough out the “something” he had somehow “swallowed” down his windpipe, and when he finally managed to clear up his breathing he turned back to Talon, who had a sneaky look in his eyes.
“Wha…wha…what are you talking about…? Link spluttered before Talon suddenly broke into a laugh.
“Forget it, my dear boy,” Talon chortled. “Just ignore an old man’s silly jokes. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get going. Again, thank you for all you’ve done. Maybe I’ll see you again someday. Please don’t hesitate to drop by the farm whenever you can. I’d love to see you again, as well as Malon, I’m sure. See you around, Link.”
With those parting words, Talon turned around and made a mad dash for the door, opening it as if his life depended upon it. When he slammed it behind him, the resulting crash startled Link more than when the hookshot flew from his hand. After that, silence reigned across the room, leaving room for anyone to speak.
Sheik took the opportunity. “Well, Link, you certainly are full of surprises, aren’t you?”
“I guess so,” Link agreed modestly without turning around to look at the Sheikah. But as he replied, he couldn’t help but notice something in Sheik’s voice. “Is something wrong? Did we say something to upset you?”
“Oh, no, it’s nothing. Nothing at all.”
The journey from Kakariko Village to the Lost Woods commenced that very night, just as Sheik had wanted. With their horses fully rested and their supplies all ready for the journey, they left Kakariko Village the moment the sun disappeared behind the horizon. There were very few people to see them off, and that was exactly the way Sheik wanted it to be. The fewer witnesses, the better. The good people of Kakariko Village were burdened enough as they were. Why burden them further with information that could guarantee their destruction at Ganondorf’s hands?
The journey itself was effectively uneventful, as both Sheik and Link wanted to get to the Lost Woods as quickly as possible. They pushed their horses to their limits for as long as they could and stopped only to eat and to rest, and during these times they rarely talked to each other. Link wouldn’t have minded chatting with Sheik a little during their riding breaks, but the seriousness Sheik expressed during the journey gave Link the impression that the Sheikah would rather think of the task at hand.
It didn’t really matter, though. Link knew he would be working with Sheik for quite some time now, so there will be plenty of opportunities to get to know him.
All throughout the journey, Navi kept to herself and remained hidden underneath Link’s hat, but once in a while she reappeared to give Link some of the companionship that Sheik was for some reason reluctant to give. The topics she and Link talked about mainly dealt with the Lost Woods and how great it would be to finally see home again, but every so often Link slipped in mention of Saria, to which Navi said a few words and then moved on to another topic.
Link couldn’t help but think of Saria. She had been his best friend all his life, and in his dreams during his seven-year confinement she had been so much more. All he could do now was hope she was all right.
He tried to do more than hope one night when he and Sheik stopped for a quick rest. Sheik had fallen asleep against a tree and Navi was following his lead under Link’s hat, so Link decided that was the best time to do something he hadn’t done for a long time. He reached into his pouch and pulled out the fairy ocarina, deciding the Ocarina of Time was too grand for such a small task.
After making one final check that everyone was asleep, Link slipped the ocarina’s mouthpiece between his lips and started to play Saria’s Song as softly as he could. He could still remember the moments he had when talking to Saria through the ocarina. That period had been brief – very brief, in fact – but it had been a sense of incredible comfort to him all the same. Hopefully he could get that same comfort now and have another chat with Saria before he arrived in the Lost Woods.
Sadly, he got no reply from her, not even after playing through the song several times. Feeling a little upset by this, Link stopped playing and returned the ocarina to its pouch. But his disappointment couldn’t mask his determination. He knew there was a very good reason Saria wasn’t responding, and when he returned to Kokiri Village he would find out.
For now, all he had was hope…
“There it is, Link. The boundary of the Lost Woods.”
Sheik’s declaration couldn’t possibly express completely what Link was really seeing. Sure, the tree line was indeed the borderline that separated the Lost Woods from the rest of the world, but to Link it was so much more. To Link it was the boundary that separated two distinct worlds: his own and everything else. To Link it was the mystical line he had cross seven years ago with the possibility he would’ve died after taking that first step. To Link it was the welcome for which he had desperately been searching ever since he had left all he had ever known behind.
To Link it was the door home, the door back to where he belonged….
“Link, are you okay?” Sheik asked.
“Yes, yes, I’m all right,” replied Link, snapping out of the stupor he didn’t know he had been in. “Come on, let’s go.”
“Okay, then. Just follow me and…”
“Actually, Sheik…I’d like to lead, if you don’t mind.”
Sheik jerked his head back in surprise. “Are you sure? It’s been a while since you’ve been here…”
“I think I’ll be okay,” Link assured. “I just want to feel like I’m home again, that’s all.”
Sheik smiled and nodded his head. “Very well, then, if you insist. Lead on.”
Link thanked Sheik and then gave Epona the signal to move forward. The mare complied and started trotting her way down the hill they were all standing on and towards the tree line. Sheik followed not too far behind with his own horse. As they edged closer and closer towards the Lost Woods boundary, Link could hardly contain his excitement. He was virtually bouncing up and down on Epona’s back as he saw the trees get closer and closer. Then, when he passed the first set of trees and thus entered the Lost Woods, he had to fight to contain the scream of joy that welled up inside of him.
That sense of joy, however, disappeared the moment Link saw exactly what the Lost Woods had become.
He first thought something was wrong when he heard no birds singing. Seven years ago, it would’ve been hard to pinpoint a single moment where a bird didn’t break into song; now he couldn’t even hear a familiar flapping of wings or scratching of tiny claws against tree bark. But it was when he saw the actual forest that he realized what had really happened to the Lost Woods.
The Lost Woods was a mess; that was the simplest explanation Link could think of. Before, the grass had grown gracefully coated with a rich emerald-green; now it was colored a sickening brown in shoddy tangles and knots. Fields upon fields of ugly weeds and shoots replaced the once dominant and vibrantly painted wildflowers. Trees that once stood tall and proud now stood ready to be used as firewood; their bark peeled and hung off like rotting skin and hideous vines crept up their trunks like endless snakes. Once-dazzling leaves of rich lime were now dried and lifeless, not even possessing the handsome shades of autumn. In desperation Link looked around for any signs of life other than the flora, but all he could see were hoards of annoying insects fluttering around any scent they could find.
Of course, the transformation was just like all the others he had seen, but to Link this transformation was the most terrible he had ever seen. What else could he think about the changes that had affect his childhood home?
The deeper and deeper he and Sheik trudged into the Lost Woods, the more the damage became evident. Weeds grew thicker, decaying stenches grew thicker, and regular flora grew more rotten. With each step Epona took, Link became more and more horrified at what he saw. With each glance he took his felt something in his heart grow numb. With each breath he drew he moved closer and closer to the possibility of throwing up. The overwhelming sense of what the Lost Woods had become was so different from what Link had expect that he almost considered the idea that he wasn’t in the Lost Woods.
But it was the Lost Woods and Link couldn’t escape that reality, even though he desperately wanted to do so. So he didn’t surprise himself when he suddenly cried out as loud as he could, “This cannot be!”
He didn’t surprise Sheik, either. “I’m afraid it is, Link. I know it’s hard for you to see your home like this, but this is the result of Ganondorf’s foul touch across Hyrule. He left nothing unscathed, even this beautiful forest and the people who live in it. I’m sorry, but all we can do right now is…”
“Shut up!” Link demanded in an almost harsh tone. “Just shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking about! This cannot be the Lost Woods! The Lost Woods would never turn into this terrible place! It just can’t! How can something so beautiful change into something so hideous? I cannot believe that! I won’t!”
“Link, listen to yourself,” Sheik urged, unfazed yet a little hurt by Link’s bleak tone. “Think about what happened to Hyrule Castle New Town, to Lon Lon Ranch, and to Kakariko Village. You saw with your own eyes how something so wonderful could be destroyed so easily. The Lost Woods is sadly another victim…”
“No!” Link bellowed. “I refuse to believe it!”
“Just leave me alone! Get away from me! I’m going home! Home where I belong! And nothing you say will change that!”
Before Link had a chance to act, Link snapped Epona’s reins hard, forcing the horse to go from a trot to a gallop. The mare managed to gain speed so quickly and carry Link away from Sheik so rapidly that he was almost completely hidden by the trees before Sheik had a chance to call out to him.
“Link! Wait! Come back! Wait! Please, wait for me! Come back! Wait!”
“I’m coming, Saria! I’m almost home! I’m almost there! Just wait for me a little bit longer! I’m almost there, Saria! I’m coming!”
Those thoughts soared through Link’s mind like a trapped wind, and they were enough of a distraction to make sure that Link didn’t see his surroundings too clearly as he galloped past them. His stubbornness still told him that everything around him was a lie, even though his common sense told him otherwise. And yet he was willing to believe his stubbornness because it held the reality he wanted, the reality he had desired to find upon his return to the Lost Woods. As Epona carried him past the rotting trees and through the overgrown grass, he made a silent prayer to the Three Goddesses that at the very least Kokiri Village wouldn’t be affected by the chaos.
At the very least…the Kokiri Village…
“Please, that is all I ask of you. Please let the village still be intact. That’s all I want from you, Three Goddesses…that’s all I want from you. Please…”
But the moment he burst out of the trees and into the enormous clearing where Kokiri Village was situated, he sadly realized his prayer wasn’t answered.
He pulled Epona’s reins to bring the horse to a standstill, and when the mare stopped Link got a good glimpse of just how much his world had been altered. Just like the Lost Woods, Kokiri Village had changed for the worse. Regular vegetation was dead and overpowered by weeds and shoots. Pathways were overgrown and barely visible. Homes were covered with vines and strips of peeled bark. There was nothing colorful or dazzling to be seen, and the overall mood was just like the one he had experienced at Hyrule Castle New City, if not worse.
But the thing that shocked him the most was the complete absence of Kokiri. There was absolutely no one about, not a single Kokiri boy or girl wandering the dying world to which Link had returned. Link immediately feared that maybe the Kokiri were dead, but he then recalled his conversations with Sheik and realized that that couldn’t be true. But if so, then where was everyone? Were they hiding, or were they somewhere else?
And what about…?
Forcing Epona to move again, Link charged down towards the village. As soon as his steed’s feet were on the overgrown paths of the town he directed Epona towards the direction of Saria’s house. He made sure she was going as fast as she possibly could, the moment felt like the longest moment Link had ever experienced. As he raced through the village like a forgettable memory, passing all the choked up Kokiri homes around him, he gritted his teeth in preparation for whatever awaited him at the end of his journey.
He arrived in front of Saria’s house in record time, even though Link felt he could’ve gotten there faster by walking. Without bothering to even slow the Epona down, Link leapt out of the horse’s saddle as hard as he could, landing with a soft thud on the hard ground that sent fire racing up his legs. But Link couldn’t have cared less about the pain; he simply snarled the pain away as he staggered his way towards his friend’s house.
“Saria! Saria! It’s me, Link! Are you in there? Saria! It’s me! Saria, are you there?”
He got no answer to his screams, and when he shoved his head through Saria’s front door he saw why. The house was empty, and Saria was nowhere to be seen.
Link immediately quickly panicked, wondering where else she could be. He could be out in the forest, but in the state it was now that was unlikely. She had to be somewhere in the village, but that meant she could be anywhere. She could be with a friend, with someone in need, or even…wait a minute. Could she be there?
Without even thinking the possibility through, Link turned around and started running as fast as he could.
He arrived at his house moments later; thankfully it wasn’t too far away from Saria’s house. Like everything else, Link’s old tree house was in shambles. Vines and creepers were strangling it as hard as they could and the timber for the balcony was practically falling apart. But that didn’t deter him in the least.
“Saria! Are you there?” he called out as he dashed over to what was once his home.
The ladder was almost useless due to years of neglect, but Link still found it functional as he used it to climb onto his tree house’s balcony. The balcony groaned under Link’s weight, but it held firm. Taking that as a sign of good things to come, Link hastened into his home, still calling out for the person he so desperately sought.
“Saria…Saria, are you in here? Saria, please. Answer me. Are you in here? Please be in here. Saria…Saria…”
To his disappointment, his house was just as empty as Saria’s house.
It was then that common sense overpowered the stubbornness that had kept his insane dream alive until now. The realization hit him almost as hard as one of the Barinade’s electrical bolts, but the pain in his heart overshadowed any pain the Barinade could’ve possibly given him. He tried sighing to release some of that pain, but it only made the hurt more dynamic.
He could feel the strength drain from his legs, but he refused to fall to his knees and cry. And yet he desperately wished he had a reason not to cry. Everything he had hoped for had gone completely wrong. The Lost Woods were in shambles, Kokiri Village was in just as bad a state, and Saria was nowhere to be found. It was as if killing the Great Deku Tree hadn’t been enough; Ganondorf had to destroy everything Link held dear to truly be satisfied.
“Ganondorf…” he snarled softly. “You…how could you do this…how could you…if I ever…if I ever get my hands on you…I’ll…I’ll…”
Link could feel his fingers close up into fists and his face grow red with anger. All the pain in his heart was being used to fuel the rage he had against the one man who had ruined everything Link had ever loved. He could feel the desire for revenge coursing through his veins, could taste the desire to seek out Ganondorf and show the evil Gerudo king that Link was far more than the little kid Ganondorf had encountered outside Hyrule Castle New City seven years ago…
The voice came so suddenly that Link turned around without even thinking about to whom it could belong. He expected to see Sheik standing right behind him, his eyes glaring angrily at Link for leaving him behind, but to Link’s surprise he saw a Kokiri….no, wait a minute! This wasn’t just any Kokiri!
Even though he still had perfectly clear memories of this particular Kokiri, Link was still amazed he was standing right before him. The inability for a Kokiri to grow still held fast for this Kokiri; he still looked as young as he did seven years ago, wearing the exact same clothes and groomed in exactly the same way. In fact, Link was almost willing to bet that he hadn’t changed in the least.
As hard as it was for Link to believe, one thing had changed with this Kokiri. Link never thought it possible, but this Kokiri he had known almost all his life…had…no…fairy!
“Who are you?” the Kokiri demanded. “What are you doing in this forest? Are you with that pesky outsider who came her a while back?”
Link didn’t even seem to hear those questions. Instead he simply leaned in a little closer and gave a question of his own.