Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chapter 38: Reunited Souls

The air went deadly still when Link uttered the name of his former bully. Mido gaped in surprise when he heard his name spoken from the lips of the “outsider,” and he blinked his eyes rapidly several times. He then started to examine the “stranger” standing before him, carefully looking over every conceivable detail he could find. His astonishment seemed only to grow as he apparently recognized the apparel of the Kokiri.

Link didn’t know what else to say, but he suspected it was only a matter of time before Mido would recognize him and utter Link’s name in the form of a question as well…

“Huh!”

Mido abruptly glared up at Link, his look of amazement replaced by suspicion and cynicism; it was the complete opposite reaction that Link thought Mido would give. Had Mido really harbored a dislike of Link so much that he would do this

“So you think you can charm us Kokiri by dressing as we do, huh?” Mido interjected sternly. “And I suppose you found out my name from that outsider that’s been visiting us these past few weeks. You’ve got a lot of nerve, mister. If I wanted to, I’d throw you out of Kokiri Village myself.”

Link couldn’t believe it. Mido didn’t recognize him! Just like Malon and Talon, Mido didn’t recognize him! And this was someone he had lived with for most of his life! Couldn’t Mido see the resemblance? Couldn’t he recognize Link’s voice? Couldn’t he…then again, Mido never did think Link would ever grow up to become an adult. But still…Mido didn’t recognize him…?

“Hey, are you listening to me?” Mido suddenly demanded.

“Don…don’t…don’t you recognize me, Mido?” Link asked, seeing if the question would jolt Mido’s memory.

Mido’s face grew tighter. “Trying to associate yourself with the Kokiri will do you no good, stranger. The only other outsider we came into contact with was the one called Sheik, and you’re obviously not him.”

“But…”

“Enough!” Mido’s face turned red with frustration. “Just tell me what you want and then leave! We just want to be left in peace! We Kokiri don’t want strangers in our forest, and that includes you! So what do you want?”

“Mido, I…” Link started to tell Mido that he was Link, but looking at Mido’s face made him take change his words. “I…I came here with Sheik, and…”

“Oh, so you are with Sheik!” Mido interrupted. “I thought so. Well, then, I know exactly what you want. But I can already tell you that I’m not going to tell you anything. But I guess I’ll have to tell your friend one more time. Boy, he can be such a bother!”

Mido then hastily turned around and started walking out onto the rotting balcony. “Come on, you,” he ordered with a motion of his hand. “I’m sure your friend is waiting for us in my house right now, so that’s where we’ll find him. And would you mind hurrying up? You happen to be inside a house of a long lost friend of ours and I don’t appreciate you being disrespectful like this.”

Now it was Link’s turn to blink in surprise. Did he just hear what Mido just said? The house of a long lost…friend? Is that was Mido really thought about Link now? How could that be…?

“Long lost friend?” repeated Link as he started moving to catch up to the hurried Kokiri. “What do you mean by that?”

“Exactly what I said,” Mido replied firmly. “A long lost friend. That’s all I’m going to say to you about that. Now just be quiet because I’d like to get you and your friend out of this forest as soon as possible.”

Link still wanted to push the topic farther, but realizing Mido’s obvious reluctance to talk about anything to him, an “outsider,” he instead sighed and waited for Mido to climb down the rickety ladder before starting down himself. When both were standing on the ground, Mido curtly started walking in the direction of his house, motioning with his hand yet again for Link to follow. Link complied without a word.

About halfway towards Mido’s house, however, Link couldn’t help but talk about something that had been on his mind ever since Mido appeared.

“Um…do you mind if I ask you a question…a small one?” Link asked calmly.

“Depends,” Mido answered. “Has it got anything to do with why you’re here?”

“Not really…”

“Then ask away, but I won’t guarantee an answer.”

Sighing again, Link took a deep breath and inquired, “What ever happened to your fairy?”

Mido nearly tripped over his own feet when Link asked that question. He jerked his head to face Link and cried, “My fairy…how do you know about my fairy?”

“Well…you’re a Kokiri, aren’t you?” Link stated. “And all Kokiri have a fairy, so I was just curious as to where yours is. Have all the Kokiri lost their fairies these days?”

At first Link thought Mido was just going to ignore the question and turn away in disgust, but to his surprise Mido lowered his eyes, hesitated for a few moments, and replied, “No…no, most of the Kokiri still have their fairies. I’m the only Kokiri who doesn’t have one.”

“I see,” Link acknowledged gently. “Is it all right if you tell me why?”

Mido again hesitated, but not as long as before. “I…I got into a fight with my fairy seven years ago and…and said things I never should’ve said to him. He left me because I said he wasn’t my friend anymore, and I must’ve really sounded like I meant it because he never came back after that. I really miss him, but we’ve never been able to find him. I don’t know if he left the forest or if he refuses to come back, but I wish I could at least tell him I’m sorry. I…”

Mido suddenly raised his stare in Link’s direction. “You know, I don’t even know why I’m telling you this. But you do seem to know quite a bit about us Kokiri. I mean, your clothes look as if a Kokiri’s hands made them. Is there a reason why you seem to know what you know?”

Now it was Link’s turn to hesitate. “ Well, I…I guess I…I guess you can say that I’ve always been intrigued by the legends of old, the legends that speak of Hyrule’s history and yet are mistaken for myth. I’ve always been interested in the tales of the Kokiri, children who live in a forbidden forest, and I’ve done as much extensive research of them. You’d be surprised what you can find in ancient texts when you actually look.”

“So…you didn’t learn about us through another Kokiri, right?”

Link nearly coughed when Mido said that. Did he suspect something? “N…n…nothing like that. Why do you ask?”

Mido lowered his head. “I don’t know. Maybe I was just thinking you had seen someone, that’s all.”

“You mean that long lost friend of yours?”

Mido suddenly straightened his neck and gave Link a brief yet intense glare. “This conversation is over. I think I’ve told you more than enough. Now if you don’t mind, I’d have some things to think about, like what to say to Sheik this time.”

Link wanted to say something in reply, but he could tell Mido wasn’t in the best of moods right now. Oddly enough, it was a mood Link had never seen Mido display before. Mido’s previous tempers had once been restricted to either being mischievous or sulky, but this temper wasn’t anything like that. Sure, Mido sounded irate and impatient, but that anger stemmed from something serious and significant, not self-fulfilling and egotistic. Mido genuinely seemed to care about something important, something the Mido Link knew all those years ago would’ve never done.

Link knew seven years was a long time, time enough to change someone drastically, but he never guessed Mido, of all people, would undergo such a change…

Suddenly, Link heard a loud snort behind him and he turned around to look behind him; Mido did the same. It didn’t take Link long to realize it was only Epona, located a reasonable distance away but slowly trotting towards her new owner. Link guessed the mare must’ve continued running a considerable distance before she decided to turn around and return; Link never thought Epona’s loyalty would run that deep for him.

“Oh, yes of course, my horse,” Link uttered with a sheepish smile before turning to Mido. “Do you mind if I go get my horse? I’ll meet you at your house.”

“But how will you get there…?” Mido began when Link interjected.

“I think I’ll find my way there just fine. I’ll be okay, so you go on ahead. I’m sure you need the time to think, anyway.”

Mido was about to say something when he paused, thought for a moment, then replied, “Whatever. Just don’t blame me if you get lost.”

Without another word, Mido turned back around and picked up his pace, making his way down the overgrown road that led to his house.

Link released a deep sigh, more out of weariness than anything; he never knew that returning home would be this difficult. He had hoped he would find everything he had ever loved waiting for him to return, but instead he was forced to hide his identity and witness his home and everything within fall victim to Ganondorf’s influence like the rest of Hyrule. He was beginning to wonder if maybe the Three Goddesses were laughing at him…

“Okay, mind explaining something to me?”

Moments later, the familiar fairy from under Link’s hat fluttered into view and in front of his face. By her erratic glow, she was having trouble determining which mood to be in.

“Explain what?” the Hero of Time asked.

“Why are you hiding your identity like that? Malon I can understand, albeit marginally, but Mido? Don’t tell me you’re going to do the same with the other Kokiri…and let’s not forget about Saria. Are you going to hide your identity from her as well?”

Link remained silent for a minute so he could think; he wanted to give Navi his best answer possible and leave little room for argument. When he finally forged a response, he took a deep breath and said, “It’s like this, Navi. I’m sure you heard me talking to Mido back at my old house, right?”

“Yes, what about it?”

“Remember what happened? I did everything except outright tell him my name, and yet he didn’t recognize me. Don’t you see? A Kokiri growing up is something a Kokiri just can’t understand; even I refused to believe it when I first saw my reflection. If I tell them I’m Link, the one who disappeared seven years ago, they’ll never believe me…or worse, they may not accept me as one of them anymore. If they treat me like they’ve treated Sheik…I…I just can’t even imagine that happening. I just can’t imagine losing the home I’ve known almost all my life.”

Navi took a minute to ponder over Link’s rationalization, and then uttered, “So I take it you’re not going to tell anyone, not even Saria…”

“I’ll…I’ll figure that out when I actually see Saria. She was…no, is my best friend, so she should understand what’s going on. But I’ll only decide when I see her. Is that good enough?”

Navi made a tentative face. “Well…I guess so, but I…”

Suddenly, Link felt something warm and moist touch his left hand, which was dangling by his side. It caught him off guard and made him jerk around in surprise, but he was relieved to find it was only Epona, gently nudging Link’s hand to tell him she had returned to him. Smiling at Epona’s devotion, Link used his left hand to gently scratch the mare’s face and caress her mane. Epona responded by releasing a thankful grunt.

As he grabbed Epona’s reins so he could lead the horse along side him, Navi spoke up again to continue from her interruption. “As I was saying, I think you’re going to have to tell everyone who you are sooner or later.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, you said yourself you don’t want the Kokiri not to accept you. Well, I think that not telling them who you are will be just as bad as telling them who you are. If you don’t tell them, they’ll still regard you as a complete stranger and still not accept you. Is that what you want?”

Link couldn’t help but see the logic behind Navi’s statement, and it didn’t make him feel very comfortable. “I…I guess not. But I’ll wait for now. It…it just doesn’t feel right telling them right now, especially after seeing Mido act like that. But…but you’re right. I need to tell them eventually…and I will. I promise I will. But let’s worry about it when we need to. For now, I think we should hurry to Mido’s house and see what we can do about helping Sheik.”

Navi didn’t appear to wholly agree with Link’s idea, but she sighed and declared, “All right. I just hope you know what you’re doing. I suppose you want me to hide until you’re ready.”

Link smiled slightly. “Sometimes I wonder if you can read my mind.”

Navi shook her head. “It’s just common sense, something I sometimes believe you dropped somewhere.” 
********************

Finding Mido’s house was a piece of cake for Link; he may have not been in Kokiri Village for seven years, but he knew the village as if it were the back of his hand.

Mido’s house was in just as bad a state as everything else in the Lost Woods, which was in a way a good thing; Link wasn’t in the mood for any more surprises. The home had been carved out of a large oak tree, making it one of the biggest abodes in Kokiri Village. The inside was large enough to house several Kokiri comfortably, but Mido used it exclusively for himself, mainly to show off his “authority” over the other Kokiri.

But with Mido acting like he was now, Link wondered if maybe Mido’s self-enrichment had changed as well…

“We’re here,” Link muttered softly to the fairy under his hat. “Remember, lay low until I say you can come out.”

“No need to tell me,” Navi replied. “Just do what you have to do.”

Nodding once in acknowledgement, Link then took a deep breath and headed for the door to Mido’s house, leading Epona by her reins. When he reached the door, he stopped and turned to the mare. “I’m going to go inside, Epona. Do you think you can stay out here without needing to be tethered?”

As if understanding Link’s question, Epona snorted a reply of some kind. Link somehow knew that Epona was telling him she would remain where she was. Smiling, he scratched the horse’s face again. “Good girl. I won’t be long. Just wait here and I’ll be right back.”

With those parting words, Link turned and headed to the door that led into Mido’s house.

Almost immediately he wished he had been better prepared, for what he saw was nothing he had ever expected. Mido’s house had once been filled with personal trophies and furniture, but now the large room that made up Mido’s home was practically empty of any kind of furnishings save for a few chairs scattered around the room’s border and a single table situated in the room’s center. And all the walls had to offer were a few well-placed windows to allow light into the relatively large chamber.

But the thing that caught Link off guard was that a Kokiri occupied nearly every single chair in the room. Mido rarely allowed anyone in his house, and seeing roughly a dozen Kokiri in such a once forbidden region was quite a surprise, indeed. At the far end of the room, also seated on one of the chairs, was the familiar figure of Sheik, and standing beside the table with his hands clenched tightly into fists was Mido. From what he could initially gather, things had already gotten underway between Mido and Sheik, and Mido’s current stance indicated he was losing his patience.

The very moment he walked into the room, Link could feel small pairs of eyes turn in his direction. Link recognized some of the Kokiri seated around the room – they hadn’t changed a bit, naturally – and he thought he also recognized some of their fairies. When all of the present Kokiri took notice of him, some of them started to whisper amongst themselves. Some of their remarks were loud enough for Link to hear, and from what he could tell they thought he looked familiar yet was most likely nothing more than an outsider with Sheik.

Their chattering made Link feel very uneasy, but nothing made him uneasier than the fact he couldn’t find the one person he had wanted to see. He didn’t know why Saria wasn’t present, but he hoped it wasn’t anything serious…

“Ah, so you finally showed up,” Mido’s voice suddenly cried, inciting Link to direct his gaze to the Kokiri bully. “I’m surprised you found my house as quickly as you did, but you’re still a little late. I’ve already made it clear to Sheik that we’re not going to tell you anything, so you may as well have never come here…”

“Excuse me.”

A gentle yet firm interruption from Sheik made every other head in the room direct their attention to the Sheikah, who was now standing up, his eyes tight and commanding. The youth gazed around the room for a moment in silence before he cleared his throat and continued, “Excuse me, Mido, but I brought him here for a reason, and I think it would only be fair for you to give him your arguments. Besides, I don’t know how you can possibly treat one of your own like this and…”

“One of our own?” Mido interjected, sounding both surprised and heated. “One of our own? What are you talking about? He is merely an outsider who dresses as one of us and happens to know more about us than the average person who lives outside theses woods. I hardly see that as a qualification to call him one of our own!”

Sheik’s eyes widened in surprise. “What? You mean…he didn’t tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“That he’s…”

“It doesn’t matter, Sheik,” Link suddenly cried. “Really, it doesn’t matter. Let them just tell me what they told you.”

Sheik’s astonishment in his eyes grew even more. “But…but Li…”

“I mean it!” Link quickly shrieked, trying his best to stop Sheik from saying his name out loud. “Let them just tell me what they told you! Okay?”

But it wasn’t okay. Sheik apparently still wanted to argue, so Link quickly rushed up to the Sheikah and hastily whispered into his ear, “They don’t know who I am. Don’t tell them, okay?”

“Link, what are you doing?” Sheik hissed back almost fiercely. “Why are you hiding your identity from them? That’s the reason I brought you to this village in the first place!”

“You don’t understand. They won’t believe I’m Link. Do you really think they’ll believe a Kokiri grew up?”

“You don’t know until you try! Just tell them who you are…or I will!”

“No, and don’t you dare tell them! I’ll tell them myself in due time!”

“In due time…? Link, you’re crazy!”

“Maybe I am!”

“Hey!” Sheik and Link twisted their heads around to find an impatient Mido tapping his foot irritably on the ground. “What are you two whispering about?”

“Oh, er…nothing, Mido,” Link quickly uttered fretfully. He quickly looked around to see if any of the present Kokiri had overheard their conversation. To his relief, no one had apparently heard his name mentioned, so he was in the clear. But he had no time to feel relieved when Mido spoke up again.

“Fine, then. So, if you’re finished talking about your ‘nothing,’ then can we get this over and done with?”

“Get what over and done with?” Link inquired.

Mido rolled his eyes. “Are you that thick? Am I going to tell you what I told Sheik, or am I not?”

Link felt his face grow read from embarrassment. “Oh, um…yes, of course. You can do that…”

Fine! Now sit down!”

The tone in Mido’s voice was so forceful and incensed that Link’s reflexes instinctively made him sit down in the nearest empty chair next to Sheik’s. He sighed in release when he felt the smooth, wooden surface of the chair beneath him, but he was anything but relaxed at the moment, thanks to Sheik’s threats and how close he came to being revealed.

Sheik made the atmosphere even more uncomfortable when he sat down beside Link and placed a hand on the Hero of Time’s shoulder. “Please, I beg you, reconsider,” the Sheikah pleaded in a whisper. “Tell them who you are. That’ll make things a lot easier for us…”

“And I suppose you know that conclusively,” Link replied back softly.

“What are you talking about?”

“You won’t understand.”

“And how do you know that?”

“I just…”

Excuse me!”

Link and Sheik snapped to attention when Mido’s fuming voice echoed in the room like a monstrous thunder. The Kokiri’s patience was obviously down to its last rations, as Mido appeared so close to just removing the two outsiders from the forest himself. When he had the attention of both the Hero of Time and the Sheikah, he continued speaking in the same heated tone.

“Okay, now that I have your attention, let me begin. You…whoever you are, whatever your name is, I assume you know the reason why Sheik has been coming here in the first place.”

Link paused a moment before answering. “Well, er…I guess I do, but…”

“But you’re too stupid to remember, is that it?” Mido interjected severely. “Then I’ll just tell you. Sheik’s reasons for being here have only included one single demand, and that demand is for one of us to show him where something called the Temple of the Forest is located inside the Lost Woods. That’s it, just that one demand. It sounds so simple, so you’d naturally assume that we’d just drop our lives so we can help you look for it.”

Mido abruptly raised the harshness in his voice. “But it’s not that simple! And there are a couple of reasons why! First, there is no such thing as a Forest Temple in this forest! It never existed and never will! And second, we Kokiri will simply not drop our lives so we can help outsiders. Even if this temple existed, we will not stop doing what’s important to us just so we can help someone pursue a cause that doesn’t even concern us! Add in the fact that you’ve pestered us with this ridiculous notion countless times already, and you can understand just how much we really don’t want you here.”

“But…but this does concern the Kokiri!” Link suddenly cried, almost standing up in surprise and resentment.

“And how, may I ask?” Mido inquired.

“It’s all around you!” Link bellowed. “Haven’t you seen the Lost Woods and the state it’s in? This was once a beautiful forest that could never be found anywhere else in the world, and it’s fallen into ruins. Not to mention this very village, which looks appalling compared to the last…I mean, compared to what it once must’ve been like. This all happened seven years ago, am I right? Seven years ago, the very time the rest of the world was affected. And you dare to say that our task doesn’t concern you?”

“Yes, I dare!” Mido countered, slamming his fists on the table. “And I’d dare again! We Kokiri have gotten through worse troubles than this, and…”

“Worse troubles? Worse troubles?” Link could feel his teeth grind together as his jaw grew taut. He could tell Mido was getting distressed about something and was trying to hide it, but saying something completely untrue about Link’s home was simply unacceptable. “You lie! Name one time the Lost Woods was in a worse state than this!”

Link’s challenge caused Mido to hesitate briefly, but he quickly regained his composure. “It doesn’t matter! What matters is that your claim that there’s some kind of temple in this forest has absolutely no evidence and is a lie as far as we Kokiri are concerned. And you continuing to come here and bother us with your constant demands is wearing thin our patience…”

Our patience?” Link interrupted. “Excuse me, Mido, but so far you’re the only one who has said anything in your defense. You have indicated your opinions to be of all the Kokiri, and yet none of the others seated in this very house have even said a word concerning the matter.”

Link then suddenly panned his gaze around the room, making sure he looked at every single present Kokiri. “Does anyone here wish to state his or her opinion?” he exclaimed. “Or is it true that Mido’s words speak for all of you…?”

“Shut up!” Mido screamed, his face turning red. “When I speak, it’s for the entire village! I am the voice of the Kokiri, and what I say is what everyone wishes to be said…”

“No!” Link roared, this time standing up and pointing and accusing finger. “You are not the voice of the Kokiri. Someone as hot-tempered and irritable as you could never be the voice of the Kokiri! I demand to speak to someone else about this! Someone who knows how to make decisions based upon necessity and not stubbornness! Someone who will actually take the time to listen to us and help us in any way possible!”

Link knew who exactly he was talking about and he was sure Mido knew as well. So it was a bit of a surprise when Mido again dodged the target in the same livid and mocking tone.

“Someone else, you say? And whom exactly would you like to speak to? Someone in this room, maybe? Or shall I go outside and find some other Kokiri who might…?”

At that very moment, Link forgot his charade and lost control of his words. “You know exactly who I’m talking about, Mido!” he yelled. “I demand to speak to her now!”

The moment Link said the word “her,” the heated blood in Mido’s face drained away from pure astonishment and his mouth gaped open like the hole Link had fallen down to reach Gohma’s nest. The other Kokiri had obviously also noticed, as they started to whisper amongst themselves. Link’s anger was too great for him to notice what they were saying, but he did catch a few hints that they were questioning who exactly he was.

Mido recovered from his shock, but not completely, as his less-irate tone suggested. “You…you want to speak to a girl? What silly idea are you thinking of now…?”

It didn’t take Link long to realize there was no turning back now. He walked up to the table, slammed his palms on the surface, and demanded as loudly as he could, “Where is Saria? I demand to speak to Saria! Tell me where she is! Now!”

The whispers suddenly turned to audible cries of disbelief; several Kokiri stood up so they could prevent themselves from actually crying out in astonishment. But Mido was clearly the one most affected by the mention of that name.

“S…S…Saria…how…how do you know…I…I never told…I never told Sheik…how do you…how do you know…how do…?”

Now it was Link’s turn to lose his patience. He stormed his way towards Mido and stopped just shy of the astonished Kokiri. Never in Link’s wildest dreams did he ever think he would tower over his former bully like this, but here he was, looming over Mido like a bully himself. Mido simply remained motionless while Link grabbed the Kokiri’s shoulders and held them as tightly as he could.

“Mido, tell me! Tell me where Saria is! I have to know! Tell me where she is! Please, this is very important! Where is she? Where is she? Please! Mido!”

But Mido didn’t say anything in response to Link’s plea. His mouth did flutter several times, as if he was about to say something, but he was obviously struggling to make sure he didn’t reveal anything. Link’s pleas only strengthened his resolve, and it didn’t take Link very long to realize what Mido was doing.

“Mido, please, tell me. You…you can trust me. I’m a friend of Saria’s. You don’t have to protect her from me. I’m a friend, Mido, a friend. Please, it’s important that I find her. I…”

“How…how do I know I can trust you?” Mido abruptly muttered softly, his eyes quivering with fear.

“So you are protecting her,” Link thought. “So you are protecting Saria. But what for? Why are you doing this? Why…? No, think about the issue on hand. You have to convince Mido he can trust you. But how can I without telling him who I am? How can I…? Wait, that’s it!”

When Link let go of Mido’s shoulders, the Kokiri took several quick steps back, as if Link’s act of touching him had been terrifying. Link simply ignored Mido’s frantic act and reached for his pouch hanging on his belt. The object he removed from his pouch he was all too familiar with, even though he hadn’t even used it that much. The Ocarina of Time felt heavy as he lifted it to his mouth, heavy with the burden of responsibility that Link was forced to carry, but he ignored this impression as best he could.

Although Link had no qualms about showing the Kokiri the precious instrument, Sheik didn’t share his thoughts. “Hey, what are you doing? No, put that away! You’re not supposed to…no, stop! Stop…!”

But he was too late. Before Sheik could say anything else, Link’s lips closed around the ocarina’s mouthpiece and he started to play. The song that came from the instrument was so perfectly performed that it even stopped Sheik in his tracks. Mido and the other Kokiri were also so caught up in the song’s light melody and beautiful that it took them a few moments before they even realized what Link was playing. Mido was the first to figure it out, but it was the other Kokiri who first said it.

“He…he’s playing Saria’s song!”

“She’s right! That’s the song that Saria always plays!”

“How does he know that song?”

“I don’t know! I thought Saria only taught that song to her friends!”

“And he’s an outsider! How can an outsider know a song only the Kokiri would know?”

“Who is he? Could he really be…?”

“That’s enough!”

No one knew to whom Mido was directing his command – Link or the Kokiri – but both fell silent immediately after the demand was uttered. Mido glared around the room frantically, as if making sure that everyone was obeying his order, before returning his attention to Link, who was lowering the ocarina from his face at a painfully slow pace. The two exchanged glances for a moment before Mido finally took a deep breath and started speaking in an unexpectedly gentle tone.

“You…how do you know that song? How do you the song that only Saria and her closest friends know how to play?”

As Mido asked his question, Link saw the depth of Mido’s emotions in the Kokiri’s eyes. They weren’t full of anger or fury or even frustration; instead they were filled with an almost sad kind of hope, almost as if Mido were pleading to Link for the answers through his eyes. Gazing into that sentiment, Link could again feel his charade crumbling and his heart pushing him to tell the truth. Each second turned into a burden and each attempt to rebuild that fa├žade only met with backlash.

Finally, he gave in.

“I…I…”

The room grew eerily quiet when Link uttered that word. Several Kokiri leaned in closer so they didn’t miss anything possibly important. Mido’s eyes grew wide with expectation as he awaited the answers he desired. Even Sheik was intrigued to find out what Link was about to reveal to the persons present.

To get a better grip on his conflicting emotions, Link clenched his free fist so he could continue.

“I…I…am…”

Link took a deep breath.

“I am…I…am…”

“You are…?” Mido mimicked, unable to contain his curiosity. “You are…?”

“I am…”

********************

“…a friend of Link’s. A friend of Link’s. I can’t believe it. I still can’t believe you actually told them that.”

As Sheik expressed his dislike of Link’s explanation for the hundredth time, Link lowered his head and gave the accompanying reply. “Yes, yes, I know. I’m sorry.” This times, however, he decided to add an appendage to his response. “But that’s what I felt I had to say. Really, it was.”

“You say that,” Sheik countered irately, “and yet you came this close to actually revealing who you were. I don’t know the significance of that song you played, but it obviously made them suspicious of who you were. I thought your ridiculous charade would end there and then, but you ended up saying, ‘I’m a friend of Link’s.’ And of course, everyone believed you. I don’t know what you’re game is, Link, but it’s getting in the way of the task at hand. You’re just lucky that you actually managed to get them to tell us what we needed to know. If it had been otherwise, I would’ve just told them who you were, right there and then. And another thing…”

“Sheik, let me ask you something,” Link calmly interjected.

“What?” Sheik asked curtly.

Link looked up and gazed into Sheik’s eyes. “Are you a Kokiri?”

Sheik jerked his head back in surprise. “Of course I’m not. Why ask such a ridiculous question…?”

Link raised a hand to silence the Sheikah. “If you’re not a Kokiri, then don’t tell me what I can and can’t do with my own friends.”

“And why not?”

“Because you do not know the Kokiri’s way of life, that’s why not. You do not know how we live, how we interact, and how we think. You do not know what we eat, what we dream, and what we believe. You have no idea what we do, where we do it, why we do it, and why we choose to do it. In other words, you do not know what the Kokiri are, and therefore you do not understand our way of life.”

Link’s eyes tightened into a challenging glare. “And therefore, Sheik, you do not know me.”

Link then turned his head away in a snappish jolt, sending Sheik the message that he was no longer interested in the Sheikah’s opinion on the subject. Sheik was about to press the topic further, but he stopped himself and thought about what Link said. It took him half a minute to realize what Link was trying to say and he sighed in defeat.

“All right, all right, I guess I can see the point you’re making. But it still makes me uncomfortable, Link, especially after you nearly got us kicked out of here again. I just hope you’re not going to do anything like this in the future.”

“Don’t worry, I don’t intend to,” Link admitted uneasily. “Besides, I’m planning on telling them after this is all over. But before you say anything, I have my reasons. Let’s just leave it at that, okay?”

Sheik shook his head and sighed. “As you wish, as you wish. By the way, how much longer do you think Mido will be? We’ve been waiting here for quite some time.”

The two “outsiders” were in the small garden located behind Mido’s house, standing and leaning against the giant hollow tree that served as the Kokiri’s home. It had been almost an hour since Mido’s departure, his reason being he had to “make sure the path was clear.” Not even Link knew to what Mido was referring, so all he and Sheik could do was wait for the Kokiri to return from whatever he was doing.

As he scratched his hair behind his head, Link was amazed that no other Kokiri had approached him since he had revealed to them he was “Link’s friend.” He could still see their gapes of shock and could still hear their cries of disbelief. And he could even recall the frenzy they went into when he explained to them how he knew Link:

“Two years ago, I met a young boy by the name of Link and we became fast friends. He told me he was a Kokiri and that he could never age like I did. He told me all about his home, especially about his best friend Saria. We parted ways soon after that, but I was forever intrigued with the race of the Kokiri. Thanks to Link, I knew more about the Kokiri than anyone else outside the Lost Woods, and that’s why Sheik chose to bring me here with him.”

His reason was so weak and so flawed that Link was surprised they accepted it without question. But he guessed they were just excited to know that Link was alive, even if it had been a couple of years ago. All the Kokiri at that time had wanted to ask Link so many questions, but Mido had intervened by abruptly asking everyone to leave his house. Everyone did, albeit reluctantly, and once everyone was gone Mido had said something Link could still hear ringing in his mind:

“You want me to take you to the Forest Temple, right?”

Link had been so startled by Mido’s question that he had only managed to nod, to which Mido replied, “Then there’s something I need to do first. Wait outside in my garden behind this house and I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

With that, he had promptly disappeared, leaving Link and Sheik alone. And now here they were, waiting in Mido’s garden with nothing but each other’s company and the dead stillness of the former glory of the Lost Woods.

“I don’t know,” Link uttered in reply to Sheik’s question concerning Mido’s whereabouts. “But what I’m wondering about is why he suddenly decided to tell us about the temple. Oh, sure, I told him that I ‘knew’ Link, but we’re still ‘outsiders’ and yet he just offered to take us without hesitating. I don’t understand. I just don’t understand.”

“Well, if you’re that worried about it, just ask him about it when he gets here…”

“Ask me what?”

A startled Sheik twisted his head around to see Mido hurrying from around the corner of his house, his cheeks completely flushed and his chest heaving in exhaustion but his face smiling in satisfaction.

“Mido, are you okay?” Sheik asked.

“Yes, I’m all right,” Mido uttered with a wave of his hand. “But that’s not important. What is it you wanted to ask me?”

Deciding it would be best not to dawn on Mido’s tiredness, Link told Mido what was on his mind. The Kokiri bully took a moment to contemplate an answer before he replied.

“The answer’s simple, really. I’m not really taking you to the Forest Temple. I’m taking you to see Saria, who happens to be at the Forest Temple.”

Link coughed in surprise. “Saria? You mean…Saria’s at the Forest Temple? What is she doing there?”

“A couple of years ago, Saria and I went out to inspect a section of the forest we hadn’t visited for a long time, and what we found nearly got us killed. We ran into these creatures that we had never seen before in the Lost Woods…big, ugly monsters that seemed to be guarding something in that part of the forest. We only managed to escape them because we knew the forest better than they did, but they obviously knew how to kill so we were very lucky.

“After that close call, we decided to sneak into the area they were guarding and slipped past them one misty night. We were surprised to find a temple we had never seen before, a temple no generation of Kokiri had bothered to mention. It was clear that this temple was what those creatures were guarding, so Saria made the decision to go inside and find out exactly why it was so important. I offered to go in with her, but she said I needed to lead the rest of the Kokiri while she was away, saying I was the best suited for the task.”

Mido’s lips tightened. “After all I did in the past, I never thought Saria would say I was the best suited to lead the Kokiri.”

“Neither did I,” Link thought in astonishment.

“She took a few nights to prepare,” Mido continued, “gave me a few words of advice, and then left for the temple. That was the last I ever saw of her. I know she’s still alive - I can somehow feel she is alive – but I’ve always wanted to make sure of it. I had given her my word I would not follow her, but have learned the patrol rounds of those creatures in case the need arises.

“And that’s what I did just now. I went to go see where they are in their patrol patterns, and the next window of opportunity will open in a short time. So I suggest we end this discussion now so we can get there before it’s too late. Come on, let’ go…”

“Wait, there’s just one more thing I need to know,” Link interjected.

Mido planted his hands on his hips. “Yes, what is it?” he sighed.

“I guess…I guess I’m still confused about something. Okay, so you’re only taking us to the Forest Temple because you’re really taking us to Saria. Why do you want to take us to Saria?”

Mido again hesitated before he answered. “Before she left, Saria told me two things. First, she told me not to let anyone go to the temple, which is why I was so spiteful to you earlier. She said she didn’t want anyone to get hurt trying to reach her, but I applied that rule to outsiders like you so you wouldn’t hurt her. I mean, I didn’t know what you would do in the temple, let alone do to Saria, so I had to act the way I did to protect her.”

“I understand,” Link acknowledged sincerely. “And the second thing?”

“The second thing…was that if I had to let one person go to the temple, it had to be Link.”

Link had to force himself not to choke on the air. Did Mido suspect…?

“But since Link hasn’t come back,” Mido continued, “you two will have to do. You may not be Link, but you know him. And I’m just so worried about Saria that I…I…well, you know. Please, I don’t know what you’re planning on doing in that temple, but please make sure that Saria’s all right. And…and please tell her about Link, because I’m…I’m sure she’ll love to hear about him.”

“Don’t worry,” Link thought heavily. “I’ll tell her.”

Mido paused for a moment before he added, “Okay, we’ve dawdled enough. Let’s go before our window of opportunity closes.”

“Right,” Link agreed before turning his gaze towards the Sheikah. “All right, Sheik, let’s…Sheik, what’s wrong?”

The Sheikah’s head was hanging on his hand and he was staring at the ground in apparently deep thought when Link took notice. When Sheik didn’t respond to Link’s question, the Hero of Time asked his question a little louder, which this time made Sheik snap out of his daze.

“Is something wrong, Sheik?” Link repeated again.

“What…oh, no, it’s nothing…at least…I hope it’s nothing…”

********************

The air tasted dry and stale, even though a light, cool breeze blew through the forest. The trees rustled faintly in response, but for the most part they remained as still and lifeless as the plains residing beyond the forest’s borders. Other than the arid crackle of dead leaves against one another, the only sounds to be heard were the tiny wings of insects that could somehow thrive in such cruel conditions.

Link tried swatting one such insect out of his face, but he only succeeded in scratching his arm against the sharp blades of saw grass in which he was crouching. The cut was deep enough to make him cringe, but luckily it didn’t draw blood. He tried to groan the small pain out, but he quickly stopped himself in order not to breath in an odor given off by the grass, an odor that tasted like rotten animal flesh.

Holding back his grunts, Link returned his arm underneath his chin and slowing turned to his left, where Mido was reclining beside him on his stomach.

“Mido, I know we’re suppose to be hiding,” Link grumbled loudly, “but do you mind explaining why you chose a patch of saw grass?”

“Keep your voice down!” Mido whispered harshly before continuing in a gentler tone, “This saw grass is tall enough to hide us from those creature’s poor eyesight…and the grass’s odor will hide our scents from their sharp noses. And keep your voice down; they can hear a forest mouse step on a dry leaf a good distance away.”

“I see,” Link griped softly while trying to keep as much of the odor out as possible. “But why are we hiding in the first place? The coast looks clear right now…”

“…and it’s what they’re trying make it look like,” Mido interjected. “We can’t see anything now, but further down here there’s another patrol of those creatures making their rounds in this line of sight. If you rush in now, you’ll run straight into them. They’re ugly, but they’re not stupid.”

“I don’t know why, but I’m not liking this more and more.”

Sheik’s words caused both the Hero of Time and the Kokiri to turn and face the Sheikah, who was lying on his stomach to Link’s left.

“Not liking what?” Mido asked.

“This situation,” Sheik answered. “Ever since you told me about those creatures, I’ve had this strange feeling. I can’t explain it, but I feel we’re walking into some kind of trap.”

“A trap?” repeated Link. “A trap set by whom?”

“I…I don’t want to even consider it…but…”

Suddenly, Mido waved a hand excitedly in the air. “Quiet! Quiet! They’re coming! Get down and shut up and be as quiet as possible!”

Following Mido’s instructions, Linka and Sheik crouched down as much as they could without allowing the saw grass to obstruct their vision. They took a quick second to find out where Mido was looking and directed their own gazes in that direction. Then they waited, waited to see the reason they were hiding in prickly saw grass…

“Here they come,” Mido whispered as a final note before he fell silent completely.

The first sign that something was heading in their direction was the sluggish yet noticeable breaking of the calm in the air. The dry, uncomfortable stillness was gradually replaced by a soft, rhythmic noise that grew louder and louder with each beat. Within a few moments, Link managed to determine that the noise was actually a composite of several sounds, and as it grew louder he could figure out what those sounds were.

The first sounded like heavy footsteps in unified processions, footsteps belonging to a very powerful owner. The second sounded like a single voice that signaled with every footstep, as if leading the owners in perfect unison. The third – and it was this sound that worried Link – sounded like heavy pieces metal clanging against one another, the sound most associated with someone marching while wearing armor.

Link hadn’t even seen the creatures yet and he was already concerned about them. At first he thought he was being unnecessarily tense, but when he actually saw them he realized his nervousness was well justified.

They appeared from behind a cluster of trees without warning, their ominous sounds suddenly growing to their loudest extent. Just as Link had guessed, the creatures were walking in perfect unity with each other in a single line, demonstrating they were obviously intelligent. As they grew closer, Link got a better look at them through the pinching saw grass and he didn’t like what he saw.

The beasts were tall, roughly under twice the height of Link, and were very well built. They human-like bodies rippled with muscles all the way down their arms and legs and across their chests, muscles almost as powerful as the ones Darunia of the Gorons possessed. They did indeed wear armor, but they weren’t as heavy coated as Link had guessed. Instead of covering their entire bodied with metal-plated clothing, only a few key spots were coated with armor, including the area around the hips, the upper chest, the shoulders, and the scalp.

They all carried a single weapon in their right hand – a crudely made spear, it seemed – but Link knew these beasts could kill something without them. Their skin, while naturally colored a sickening brown, appeared soiled from unknown, horrible deeds that Link didn’t even want to know about and indeed made them look unsightly. But their faces were what truly made them hideous. Short and chubby compared to the rest of their bodies, the monsters’ heads were more animal than human. With sharp ears resembling a fox’s, flat and stiff jaws as fierce as a Dodongo’s, and tiny eyes as emotionless as a ReDead’s, these creatures reminded Link of a combination between a disfigured forest wolf and Hylian Market pig. They also reminded Link of the Lizalfos he encountered in the Dodongo’s Cavern, only these brutes were far more deadly. Unlike those Lizalfos, these creatures knew how to kill and kill quickly and easily.

Link didn’t have to face them to know that; he just knew.

“By the Three Goddesses,” he thought. “Please don’t let them see us. Please don’t let them know we’re here. Please…please…”

He didn’t know who he was praying to, but he just hoped his prayer was answered. All he dared to do after that was remain perfectly still and try to breath as softly as he could as the troop of creatures began passing them. They were thankfully marching a safe distance from Link’s hiding place, but Link still felt uncomfortable being able to see them at all. Other than the voice he had heard earlier, he could now hear each and every one of those creatures grunt strongly with each step they took, as if they couldn’t walk without making some kind of sound. Link could also hear their noses snort and grunt, sniffing the air for any traces of anything that could be killed; he even thought he could hear the their ears twitch to listen for any unusual sounds.

Link was so anxious that he even tried not to think for fear they could hear his thoughts. As he turned his neck to watch the group of monsters walk past him, he hoped they couldn’t hear his muscle movements. He managed to keep his breath down, but he could feel his heart race in his chest his ears; he quickly prayed the beasts couldn’t hear heartbeats.

“Go away,” he wanted to think out loud but instead did so at a whisper. “Just go away…go away…just go away…”

To Link’s complete relief, the armor-clad monsters didn’t stick around for that long; they didn’t even pause in their march once the entire he saw them. As quickly as they appeared, the brutes disappeared down their predetermined path behind another cluster of trees. Their threatening sounds seemed to fade a lot slower than they had developed, but the softer they grew the more relieved Link felt.

It wasn’t until he could no longer hear anything but the stillness of the forest when Link found the courage to say something. “What…what were those thing?” he whispered loudly.

To his surprise, Sheik had an answer for him, although he sounded just as nervous as Link. “M…M…Moblins…”

“Moblins…?” Link repeated when Mido interrupted.

“Quickly! Now’s our chance! We have to make a run for it! Follow me and don’t lag behind!”

Without hesitating another second, Mido sprang into a standing position and pushed himself forward, heading deeper into the forest.

“Mido, wait…?” Link started but was again interrupted, this time by Sheik. But instead of speaking, the Sheikah merely interjected by following Mido’s example and running after the nimble Kokiri. Link quickly realized he was going to be left behind if he didn’t start moving and cried, “Hey, wait for me!”

Link managed to nearly cut his hands while using them to help him stand up, but he hardly cared. A few scrapes from saw grass were far better than facing even one of those “Moblins.” As he struggled to catch up to Sheik and Mido, he tried thinking of something to ignore the pain in his palms.

He thought of something instantly. “Saria…I’m coming, Saria. I’m nearly there. Just wait a little longer. I’m nearly there…”

********************

“Link, we’re in big trouble.”

When Link managed to catch up to Sheik, who was waiting for him at the base of a very large oak tree, Link thought the Sheikah would at least let him catch his breath before saying anything. But Sheik didn’t waste any time at all.

“Tr…trouble?” Link panted breathlessly as he stopped and bent over to catch his breath. “Wha…what are you…what are…you…?”

“Link, those were Moblins,” Sheik declared urgently. “Those creatures we saw…they were Moblins.”

“Yes, you said that before,” Link pointed out. “So what…?”

“Moblins are part of Ganondorf’s horde.”

At the mention of that terrifying name, Link felt a chill run down his spine, a chill that erected his back and made him breath normally again. “Ganondorf? What do you mean?”

“Ganondorf created those creatures, Link, that’s what I mean,” Sheik asserted firmly. “And that means that Ganondorf knows about the Forest Temple. I knew he knew about some of the other temples, but I never thought he’d figure out where the Forest Temple was. If he’s using Moblins to guard the temple’s perimeters, then…then what has he guarding the inside of the temple?”

Ganondorf…guarding the temples? Great, that was all Link needed. All he wanted was for this little temple-quest to be over as quickly as possible, but apparently the one man he hated wouldn’t even give Link that luxury. Perfect. Just perfect.

Clenching his fist in gentle yet firm rage, Link considered pursuing the topic further but realized it wouldn’t do any good. Instead he asked, “Where…where’s Mido…?”

“Here,” the Kokiri’s familiar voice echoed before Mido himself burst from a nearby clump of bushes. He slowed his pace down as he approached the Hero of Time and the Sheikah and stopped within arm’s reach of Link to catch his breath. He was just as flushed as Link was from the running, but he didn’t look as annoyed as the Hero of Time felt.

“Where did you go just now?” Link inquired.

“I just did a quick spot check of the temple,” Mido replied. “There’s no creatures – or Moblins, whatever you call them – there’s nothing guarding the entrance, so you can just walk in and do whatever you want.”

“You mean…you’re not going any further?”

Mido shook his hands wildly. “No, no, no. I promised Saria I wouldn’t follow her, and I intend on keeping my word. Besides, I have the Kokiri to lead in Saria’s stead. So you two will have to go in alone, but…”

“Actually, I’m not going in,” Sheik interjected.

Both Link and Mido jerked their heads around to face the Sheikah, but Link was the first to respond. “You…you’re not going in? What are you talking about? I thought you were going to help me. I thought…”

“I told you before,” Sheikah uttered calmly, “I can only help you to a certain point. I have other duties to attend to other than aiding you, the Hero of Time. You will have to enter the temple alone, but I’m sure you can awaken the Sage without my help.”

Although Link had heard it before, he still couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “But…what about whatever might be guarding the temple? Are you just going to leave me to face whatever’s inside there all by myself?”

“Yes, but you should have no need to worry. Although you won’t have my help, you will have the power of the Master Sword behind you, as well as Rauru’s power. That should be enough to protect you from whatever Ganondorf has left to defend the temple.”

“Oh, yeah, a far cry from ‘Link, we’re in big trouble.’ ”

Link’s face grew now looked as irritated as he was surprised. “But…but if you had no intention of going in with me, then why did you just follow me all the way to this point? Mind explaining that?”

“I have a reason,” Sheik replied as he fiddled his fingers with one another, “and that reason is because there is one thing you must do before you enter the temple.”

“Oh, really?” Link asked almost cynically. “And what might that be?”

“This,” Sheik answered moments before removing something from behind his back…
 
********************

“So…this is the Forest Temple.”

Link’s first words upon laying eyes on the Temple of Forest weren’t exactly profound, but Link wasn’t concerned about sounding deep at the moment. All that really mattered was that he had found the temple.

Ironically, the Forest Temple wasn’t really much to look at. Link had expected finding a grand palace worthy of competing with the Hyrule Castle he saw seven years ago, but instead he found nothing of the sort. Instead of soaring towers and adjoined structures, all that the temple seemed to boast of was a single building with a triangular roof and pillars surrounding its wall. And he couldn’t see even that part well thanks to a lofty and rigid stone wall running around the structure. The only entrance in sight was a gaping square hole situated directly in front of Link, and it didn’t even boast any kind of decoration.

Was this really the Temple of the Forest, the sacred resting place of the power of the Sage of the Forest? If it was, it certainly wasn’t anything impressive. Maybe the inside would fair better…

If he’s using Moblins to guard the temple’s perimeters, then…then what has he guarding the inside of the temple?

Sheik’s words crept into his mind like an annoying itch he couldn’t scratch and he sighed in frustration. He didn’t want to, but he had a feeling he was going to draw blood with his sword soon enough. As much as he hated killing, despite his uncontrollable bloodlusts, he knew he was going to take something’s life this day.

Something…

“Why me?” Link cried in his mind. “Why does it have to be me?”

He stood before the entrance to the Forest Temple for a few minutes longer, pondering whether or not to step inside and meet his fate. He could just abandon this quest and return to the Kokiri, but in his heart he knew this was but a pipe dream. If he did not awaken the Sage of the Forest, as well as the other Sages, then Ganondorf would win and the Lost Woods, not to mention all of Hyrule, would die in his hands.

No, not Ganondorf’s hands.

Link’s hands.

If Link did not do this, Link would be responsible for the death of everything around him. And that was something Link could not…no would not allow. He had no choice; he had to go in.

“Very well,” he whispered to himself. “Let’s do this.”

Taking a deep breath, Link headed for the opening in the wall. Each step he took felt as if he were walking for the first time. The closer he got to the temple, the heavier the Master Sword on his back became. But he forced himself to press on, forced himself to enter the domain where he would kill something. When he stood within arm’s reach of the entrance, he thought he could almost smell the blood he was about to shed…

THWAK…

Link jumped from pure fright when something flew past his left cheek and collided with the stone wall with an earsplitting crack. But before he could even do anything else, a loud voice boomed from behind him.

“Don’t move! I’ve got you in my sights! Try anything funny and I’ll kill you! Stay right where you are!”

Too stunned to move, all Link could do was obey the strict order from whomever was behind him. He did, however, take the risk of turning his neck slightly so he could see exactly what had flown past him just a moment ago. There, imbedded in the stone itself and still vibrating like a cold wind, was an arrow. At first glance, he could tell it was an expertly crafted arrow, so whoever made it must be an extraordinary shot.

Deciding to play it safe, Link raised his hands in the air.

“I said don’t move!” the voice demanded.

“I’m…I’m just raising my hands, that’s all!” Link called back. “Who…who are you?”

“That’s none of your concern! What are you doing here? How did you get here? You have no reason to be here!”

“I’m…I’m here…” Link started before stopping himself. He couldn’t tell this person he was here to awaken the Sage of the Forest. “I’m…I’m here to find someone.”

“Who?”

“I…I don’t know if I should tell you…”

“Hey! I’m the one who can kill you where you stand! Now answer me! Who are you trying to find?”

Realizing he had no choice, Link uttered, “I…I’m here to find Saria. But…but if I may be so bold, I’d still like to know who you are. Are you a friend of hers?”

There was no answer for what seemed like an eternity. Link was about to think that whomever was behind him was gone when that loud, commanding voice abruptly returned. “Turn around! Do it slowly and don’t make any sudden moves!”

Without any other options, Link did as he was told.

When he saw who was behind him, he gaped in pure disbelief.

The person was standing a stone’s throw away from Link, clutching a bow in one hand and a drawn arrow in the other. This was obviously the one who had shot that arrow, but Link would’ve never guessed it would be the person standing before him. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t recognized that voice off the bat. Oh, sure, it had been seven years, and sure, he had never heard it at that tone before, but that was no excuse. How could he ever forget the voice of…of…of…?

“I am Saria,” the green-haired Kokiri standing before him declared as she drew the arrow further back in the bowstring. “I am the one you seek. Now tell me who you are and how you know my name.”

By the look in Saria’s eyes, Link could tell she was serious about killing him if he made any funny moves. He couldn’t believe he was seeing like this; the Saria he knew would’ve never hurt the smallest forest creature. But either way, he was still looking at Saria. Saria. She looked exactly the same as he had left her all those years ago. Green clothes, green hair, pale skin, even Katl hovering over her shoulder. It was Saria, and that’s all that mattered.

Link had found Saria at last.

“Saria…I found you at last,” Link muttered as he struggled to fight back the tears in his eyes.

“So you’ve been looking for me for a while, have you?” Saria snarled. “But answer my question! Who are you? Answer me!”

There was no holding back now. He had made a promise to himself he wouldn’t play games with her. Link was going for it. “Saria…don’t you recognize me? It’s me. I’m…Link.”

The moment his name left his lips, Link prepared for any kind of backlash that Saria might inflict upon him. He anticipated her gaping in shock before shaking away the feeling and shrugging his statement off. He expected her to tell him that he was lying and to tell her who he really was. He stood ready to take off his cap so he could show her Navi, who would prove to her that he really was the boy who had left all those years ago.

But instead, Saria gaped in shock and remained that way. Her face grew pale, her eyes grew wide, and her jaw dropped to the ground. Her hand that clutched the arrow in the bow suddenly lost strength and loosened the taut bowstring; a second later she dropped the arrow, followed closely by the bow. She seemed to be…trembling. Link couldn’t believe it; she was actually trembling!

“Link?” an astonished Saria uttered. “Is…is that really you…?”

Link felt the smile grow on his face. “Yes, Saria, it’s me. I’m home.”

Link half-expected Saria to suddenly ask questions about him, such as why he was all grown up. But all Saria did was cover her hand over her mouth to recover from the shock. “Link…don’t play games with me. Don’t lie to me. Don’t tell me you aren’t there. By the Three Goddesses, if you really are there, please prove to me you are you who say you are. Please…”

“Oh, for crying out loud!”

Link was just as surprised as Saria when a familiar pink fairy zipped from underneath Link’s hat and above the Hero of Time’s shoulder, her light flickering wildly. “You want proof, Saria?” Navi cried. “Well, I’m your proof. It’s me, Navi, the fairy Link received before he left the forest. There, I’ve just proved he’s Link. Now, will you two just stop with the senseless melodrama already?”

At first, Saria didn’t know what to do when she heard the fairy’s testimony except take in what she just heard. She glanced at Navi for a split second before she returned her gaze to Link, who had returned his own stare at Saria. Both merely gawked at one another for what seemed like forever, unable to move or even speak.

But then Saria made the first move. Her gape turned into a weak smile and her wide eyes tightened, allowing tears to flow down her cheeks. She tried a few times to say something, but all she could say was one word. “Link…Link…Link…Link!”

Unable to hold herself back, Saria released that last cry of his name as joyfully as she could and pushed herself forward, running straight for the Hero of Time with her arms wide open. She didn’t say anything more as she rushed towards him, but she didn’t need to; that final cry of “Link” was enough to open the door for Link to cry.

“Saria…oh, Saria…”

Link’s own words were merely a whisper, but they spoke loudly enough to release his tears. As he felt their warmth trickle down his face, he felt his legs forcing him to kneel to the ground. Not willing to argue with himself, Link did so, and when his knees touched the ground he realized why he was kneeling in the first place. Without a second thought, he threw open his arms so he could greet the advancing Kokiri.

“Is…is this a dream?” Link thought as he recalled his seven-year long dream back in the Chamber of Sages. “Is…is this going to fade away…like before? Will I lose her again? Oh, please, no. Please, don’t let that be so. I won’t lose you again, Saria. Never again. Never…”

Liiiiiiiink!”

Saria’s scream of his name echoed like a fulfilled promise just as Saria leaped into Link’s arms. The moment he felt her child-like body slam into his chest and her arms wrap around his torso, Link knew this really wasn’t a dream. It was real; he was really holding Saria in his arms. Holding Saria…in his arms…

“Oh, Link!” Saria bawled through her voice choked by her own tears. “I knew you’d come back! I knew it! And you’re here! You’re finally here! Thank the Three Goddesses! You’re finally here! Oh, Link…!”

“Saria…” was all Link managed through his own tear-choked voice as he wrapped his arms around Saria, holding her as tightly as he could; he held her so closely that he could feel her tears trickle onto his own cheecks. He had never dreamed he would be holding her like this, as he had seen Talon hold Malon once or twice on the farm, as a father would hold a daughter. But Saria was not his daughter; she was his friend…no, she was much more than that. She meant everything to him, and he didn’t care how he held her in his arms, just so long as he held her.

Everything seemed to disappear in that moment – the forest, Time, even the fairies Navi and Katl – and that was exactly what Link wanted. This was a moment he would treasure, because it was the first time since returning to the Lost Woods that he felt he belonged. That he was back.

That he was home.

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