The mighty Din’s Eye seemed to rise over the horizon differently that day, as if it had no motivation or interest to bare its face to the land of Hyrule. The sun still showed itself, but almost with a kind of tear in its eye. That “tear” manifested itself into a chilling wind that twisted its way through Hyrule like a grim reminder of something everyone would rather forget.
The cold current of air eventually made its way to the village of Hariton, a small and quiet community of farmers that lived in the southern region of Hyrule, close the mountainous borders. Normally, such a bitter breeze would’ve dulled the mood of the commune, but not today. Today was, sadly, just like every other day for the last seven years, and the denizens didn’t need an icy wind to crush their spirits, not when the cruel hand of Ganondorf had long crushed them already.
Only a few people were walking the dusty streets of Hariton that day, most of them children trying to find some comfort in playing with one another. A couple mothers were out to keep an eye out for the younger kids, but oftentimes their gazes would sadly wander away to look up at the bleak sky, dreaming of a time when their children had a better future awaiting them. The children themselves didn’t and couldn’t understand what their parents knew, but they knew something upset all the grownups, a feeling which often ended some of their games before they even started.
As he walked past a couple boys playing marbles in the dust, one of the village’s more recognized farmers, Jaro, sighed to himself as he forced himself to keep the information he knew fresh in his mind by reciting it over and over again. This process did agitate him quite a bit, but he waited until he was out of earshot of the boys before he finally muttered a curse under his breath.
“Curse it all…” he mumbled to himself as he took a turn onto another road. “Why did this have to happen? What will the others think?”
The “others” Jaro referred to were his fellow farmers, and he knew exactly where to find them…or at least some of the more prominent ones. He was heading to that place at this very moment, and no sooner had he turned onto the new road that he had the location in his sights: a small pub on the very edge of town called The Galloping Dragon, a place where farmers would congregate and tell stories of their hard days of work or complain about their nagging but wonderful wives or brag about their smart and beautiful children.
But not anymore. Now the Dragon was a place to inform everyone else of bad news. And did Jaro have bad news today…
He pushed open the door to the pub gently, as if not to startle anyone that might be inside. But the moment he stepped inside he hurried his pace a little bit, though he did look down at the floor as if in shame. Inside, several farmers and a single chubby bartender were the sole occupants of the bar, all crowding around the counter at the far end of the room. Enough tables were spread out across the room to accommodate the entire village, but at the moment they were all empty.
As Jaro closed the door behind him, one of the farmers, Koji, noticed him. “Jaro…you’re back. That was rather fast.”
“Back?” another farmer inquired to Koji. “I didn’t know he was gone. Where did he go…?”
“He went to visit his sister in Ellingville, Thomas,” a third farmer, Marlis, answered. “He got word that she was sick, so…”
“But that still doesn’t explain why he’s back,” Koji pointed out to Marlis before turning to Jaro, who was quietly making his way towards the group with his eyes hanging low. “So what happened, Jaro? Is your sister all right? Did something happen? Why are you back so early…?”
“My sister’s all right,” Jaro softly revealed as he raised his eyes, looking at each of his friends before he reached the bar counter and turned to the bartender. “I came back because something terrible has happened…a glass of ale, if you don’t mind, Gus.”
The bartender nodded quietly and hurried to the back to fix Jaro’s drink. As he did, Jaro leaned against the counter as if exhausted, though the look in his eyes revealed he had plenty of energy to burn. His moustache bristled feverishly as his lips tightened in frustration.
“Something terrible? Like what?” Marlis asked, scratching his bald head.
“You remember our shipment of wheat that was supposed to go to the capital as tribute to Ganondorf? The wheat we worked our tails off to grow in this desolate weather?”
“Yes?” Thomas and Koji acknowledged together, their faces not the only ones growing a little worried.
Before he continued, Gus arrived with Jaro’s drink and placed it within reach of the farmer. Jaro quickly snatched the glass and took a huge sip of the drink. He wiped the foam from his lips before he finally carried on with his story.
“Well, the very day I arrived in Ellingville, I overheard someone mention that the cart caravan carrying the wheat had been attacked by bandits. Three men were killed and over half the grain was stolen. Most of the rest had been spilled during the attack, making it worthless. The people transporting the grain managed to salvage some of it, but it apparently isn’t enough.”
The horrified looks in everyone’s eyes was enough to let Jaro know that they found this information just as shocking as he had.
“But…but we worked night and day for that grain!” Koji cried out, slamming his fist onto the counter. “We put our heart and souls into harvesting that! How could the ones transporting it just give it up to bloody bandits?”
“I’ll tell you why!” Marlis stated, his waving finger indicating his growing anger. “It’s because we didn’t hire any mercenaries to protect the caravan like we’ve always done. I told you guys before that it was a bad idea not to hire them…and look what happened.”
“But we couldn’t have afforded them even if we wanted to!” Thomas protested, adjusting his glasses on his face. “They charge outlandish fees for their protection, and they almost cleaned us out the last time we hired them.”
“Feh!” Marlis hissed. “A small price to pay for getting our grain on time to that miserable bastard Ganondorf. And now that we lost virtually all of the fruits of our labor, I expect he’ll ask us to double next year’s tribute…Hael, he might even triple it just to mock us.”
Jaro grumbled in agreement as he took another swing of his ale. “Yeah, I know…that bugger is really beginning to get to me. I wish that someone would do something about him…”
“Yeah…” Gus said with a sigh as he cleaned the countertop with a damp cloth. “I wonder whatever happened to that Hero of Time, anyway?”
The four farmers directed their gazes towards the bartender. “Hero of…what?” Marlis asked.
Gus looked up with a flat frown on his lips. “The Hero of Time. It’s just some rumor I heard from a couple travelers several weeks ago, but it was certainly an interesting one. They said that some kid had found a legendary blade of the gods and was using it to challenge Ganondorf. Didn’t hear much more than that, but what else do you expect from a rumor? He probably never eve existed…”
“Wait a minute…I think I heard a similar rumor a couple days ago,” Marlis acknowledged with a wide look in his eyes. “I heard that last month some kid saved an entire race from being fed to a fire-breathing dragon…you know, it was that race that Ganondorf was going to sacrifice to ‘set an example’ or something. That race was…that race was…”
“Garons?” Thomas offered.
“No, it wasn’t Garons…Gorons! Gorons, that’s it. The Gorons.”
Gus raised an eyebrow as he returned to wiping the counter. “Who’re the Gorons?”
“Who are they?” Marlis continued. “No idea. It was the first time I heard about them when Ganondorf made that declaration who knows how long ago. But rumor has it that some kid managed to free the entire race from captivity…and I think he even killed that dragon to top it off. Maybe it’s that Hero of Time you talked about, Gus…”
“Hogwash!” Jaro spat as he finished off his drink. “The Hero of Time is just a myth. A fairytale.”
“Are you sure about that?” Thomas posed. “Many people thought that the Triforce was also a myth, and yet Ganondorf rose to power because of it…”
“Also hogwash!” Jaro snapped as he slammed his now empty glass down on the counter, almost shattering it. “Ganondorf didn’t rise to power because of some legend. He rose to power because our last king was a weakling who ran away like the coward he was. And this Hero of Time business…hah! Don’t make me laugh. Like I believe in something as ridiculous as that.
“We don’t need fairytales…we need help. If this Hero of Time is real, then maybe he should’ve been here to protect our grain shipments.”
No one had a response to Jaro’s outburst, so the farmer tried to take another sip of his ale…only to discover he had finished it. He shook the glass a couple times to make sure it was empty before he turned to the bartender. “Hey, Gus…how about another round?”
The bartender shook his head. “I’m afraid I’d rather not get you drunk in the mood you’re in. One ale is enough for you…”
“Fine, fine, fine,” Jaro grumbled as he again slammed the glass down, followed closely by his fist. “Then just get me a glass of milk. And make sure it’s cold.”
“Sure thing,” Gus nodded before he turned to disappear into the back again. “You don’t have to worry about it being cold, though. I just received a fresh shipment from Lon Lon.”
As Gus headed to the back, Jaro jerked his head around. “Lon Lon…as in Lon Lon Ranch? I thought they no longer made milk ever since the new owner took over…”
“The old owner regained ownership of the ranch recently,” Thomas pointed out quietly. “He’s even selling his horses again, I hear.”
Jaro grumbled again for no reason. “Well…at least something going right for something in this mess-up world…”
A soft tap from behind signaled that Gus had arrived with the milk. Jaro turned and reached for the glass, immediately taking a large sip of the cool, refreshing liquid. “Ah, that hits the spot…nice to see Talon hasn’t lost his touch after all this time…”
“Oh, wait a minute, that reminds me…” Gus abruptly blurted out before he leaned over the counter and called out, “Excuse me, sir, would you like some more milk?”
“Sir…?” Jaro repeated before turning his head to look where Gus was looking.
To his surprise, he saw that the room was not completely deserted save for the three farmers and the bartender. Sitting all by himself in a corner near the front window was a stranger, a young man…or rather an elder boy of about seventeen or eighteen years. He wore strange, green clothes and was decorated from shoulder to waist with weaponry of all kinds. Sitting on his table were three empty glasses once filled with milk. He hardly seemed to move, and he was looking outside the window without a word.
When he didn’t answer the bartender’s question, Gus called out again, “Pardon me, sir, but would you like…?”
“No,” the boy answered tersely without turning to look at the bartender. “I’m fine. I’m leaving in a bit anyway.”
The rather harsh tone in the boy’s voice almost made Gus and the farmers reel back a little, but the bartender managed to recover. “Well…all right, sir. Whenever you’re ready to leave, then your bill comes to a total of six rupees. Thank you for your patronage, and I hope to see you again…”
“Don’t you ever shut up?”
When the boy spoke those words, the entire room seemed to fall silent. Even Jaro, who was feeling very bitter inside, was amazed by the austerity he heard. It was enough to make Gus hesitate for a few seconds before responding. “I…I apologize, sir. I’m just trying to be friendly…”
“You know what?” the boy interjected as he quickly stood up, noticeably annoyed. “I’m leaving right now.”
As he stood up, he turned to face the farmers and bartender. When the men saw the boy’s eyes, they felt a shudder run down their spines. The boy’s eyes were cold and unemotional, filled with a seething anger that seemed to flow throughout his entire body. The boy glared at the men for a few moments before he reached into one of his pouches and fished out several rupees. He showed them to the bartender for a second before slamming them down on the table. He then turned to leave the bar.
“Um…sir? Could you please bring me those rupees?” Gus asked politely.
The boy hesitated for a moment and seemed to contemplate the man’s offer. He then seemed to smile a little as he answered, “Get them yourself.” He then started moving again…
“Now hold on just one bloody minute!”
Jaro’s call was enough to cause the stranger to pause and turn back around to face the men with those same cold eyes. Everyone again felt a chill run down their spines upon looking into them…everyone but Jaro, who was shivering out of growing irritation. The farmer banged his glass onto the counter and marched his way across the room towards the boy.
“Jaro…what are you doing?” Koji called out. “Stop…”
But it was too late to stop Jaro. As he stormed towards the stranger, he rolled up his sleeves, indicating he was ready to get physical if need be. The boy, however, wasn’t intimidated in the least. He simply folded his arms and watched Jaro head towards him, smiling wryly and not saying a word. It was only when Jaro was standing directly in front of him when the boy finally spoke up.
“Yes? You wanted something?”
“You’re bloody right I want something!” Jaro growled, waving his fist in front of the boy. “I want to know where your manners went, boy!”
The boy’s lips seemed to curl upward scornfully as he shrugged his shoulders. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You know damn well what I’m talking about, you little bastard!” Jaro bellowed. “You were very rude to my good friend just now, and I demand you apologize to him! If you don’t take those rupees to him and apologize for your rudeness, I’m going to give you a hiding you’ll never soon forget.”
“A hiding I’ll never forget?” the stranger chuckled. “After what I’ve been through, I seriously doubt it…”
“I don’t care what you’ve been through!” Jaro roared, his fists raised, ready to make a punch. “Apologize now before I make you regret you ever crossed me!”
The boy continued smiling up at Jaro, apparently unafraid of his threats. But just when Gus and the other farmers were certain a fight would break out, the stranger tilted his head to turn his gaze towards the group at the bar counter.
“My good sir,” the boy stated, directing his words towards the bartender. “I would like to honestly and sincerely apologize…” Suddenly, the stranger turned his head towards the rupees sitting on the table…and spat on them. “…for not leaving you a tip.”
That was enough to push Jaro over the edge. “Why…you…little…piece…of…”
The farmer then pulled one of his fists back and swung it as hard as he could in the boy’s direction, trying to strike the stranger’s face. But before Jaro’s fist could even touch the boy, the boy reached out with one hand…and grabbed the farmer’s fist within his palm, stopping it in mid-swing! And the boy didn’t even seem to break a sweat at stopping the attack!
“What in the name of the Three Goddesses…?” Jaro cried out before the boy snickered.
Without warning, the stranger’s hand hooked itself around Jaro’s wrist and yanked it behind his back, twisting it around as far as it could go. The pain that soared up Jaro’s arm was enough to immobilize him from making another attack, and the stranger took full advantage of it. He pulled and twisted Jaro’s arm in an inescapable position behind the farmer’s back before using his free hand to push Jaro’s head forward. The farmer had no choice but to fall down, his upper body slamming with a loud crash on one of the tables.
“What are you…?” Jaro demanded before he fell silent, feeling something cold and sharp dig into the base of his neck.
“Oh, my word!” Thomas exclaimed, standing up frantically, along with everyone else by the bar counter.
“Nobody come any closer,” the boy demanded calmly as he carefully shoved the weapon in his hand further into the back of Jaro’s head, his thumb finger already twitching to press down on the trigger…
“A hookshot!” Marlis exclaimed, making sure he didn’t move from where he stood. “That boy’s got a hookshot!”
“Ah, I see you’re actually smarter than you look,” the boy sneered. “Yes, this is a hookshot, and I’m not afraid to fire it through this man’s skull. I’m sure you can guess what would happen if I did that…”
By now, Jaro was shivering quite nervously, the earlier rage in him completely gone. He dared not move, but the twitching pain in his twisted arm made that rather difficult. “Pl…please…don’t k-kill me…” he pleased, his commanding voice now a mere timid whisper.
The boy’s sneer melted into a serious snarl. “Whether or not I kill you depends on how much I don’t like you…and your whining isn’t helping you at all.” He then jabbed the hookshot a little deeper into the man’s skull, as if to hammer the point home…both figuratively and literally.
Jaro immediately fell silent upon hearing that threat, but he was obviously growing more and more nervous by the second as a tear started to trickle from one of his eyes. The remaining farmers and the bartender, meanwhile, watched in horror as their friend’s life was being threatened. It took forever before one of them could even find the courage to speak.
“Please…I beg of you, don’t kill him,” Thomas begged sincerely as he took as step forward. “That man doesn’t deserve to be…”
“What did I say about coming closer?” the boy asked gruffly, his eyes refusing to look up from the man in his grasp.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Thomas cried, quickly taking a step backwards. “But please, hear me out. That man doesn’t deserve to die. He’s done nothing to you.”
“Nothing to me, has he?” the boy scoffed. “Then I suppose his little attempt at punching me was his way of saying hello?”
“I…I apologize for that…and I’m sure Jaro does as well,” Thomas continued, trying to hide his anxiety. “You wanted to be left alone, and we didn’t respect that. We’re sorry for whatever we did to you. But please, for the love of the Three Goddesses, don’t kill him. He doesn’t deserve to die…”
“Yes, you already said that…”
A loud clack sounded, and everyone’s eyes except the stranger’s widened in shock when they realized the boy had pressed hookshot’s trigger halfway down, activating the ruby target inside the hookshot’s head. All the boy had to do was squeeze his thumb a little bit more…
“…but give me a good reason why this man deserves to live,” the stranger demanded. “I see no reason, but I’m sure you know of one. So please…enlighten me.”
Thomas’s face grew pale at the boy’s request, and he started to fidget with his fingers furiously as he struggled to come up with a reason good enough for the stranger. His friends behind him held their breaths collectively, and the sweat dripping down Jaro’s face masked the tears now streaming from his eyes. The boy meanwhile, watched Thomas patiently, his gaze calm but aloof, as if the life of the man in his clutches meant nothing to him.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Thomas took a deep breath, adjusted his glasses on his face, and answered. “He…Jaro has always been an ideal role model…not only to his friends but to his community and his family. He’s a loving husband and a caring father to two wonderful sons, he’s worked harder at his job than anybody I know, and he’s never afraid to make new friends and stand…”
Thomas cut himself off at that moment, deciding not to mention Jaro’s tendency to “stand up for his friends”; the stranger might see that as an insult after the way Jaro attacked him. He faked a cough to hide his hesitation before continuing, “…and lending a helping hand to those who need it. So please…I beg of you…spare his life.”
The boy knitted his brows together as he contemplated Thomas’s request. His eyes darted back and forth between the farmer in his grasp and the farmer pleading for the man’s life, as if pondering over all the possibilities. Jaro whimpered a prayer under his breath softly while his friends fretfully awaited the stranger’s decision…
Unexpectedly, a twisted smile formed on the boy’s lips. “Very well.”
Before anyone could react, the stranger yanked Jaro’s arm upward, dragging the bawling farmer’s upper body with it, forcing him to stand up. The boy then coerced Jaro to turn so that he stood between the stranger and his friends, the hookshot still pointed at his skull. The boy’s smile widened as he twisted Jaro’s arm one more time before he leaned in close to the man’s ear.
“These people like you…Jaro, is it?” he sneered loud enough for everyone to hear. “Because they’ve been far more polite than you were, I’m going to let you go. Does that sound good?”
Apparently still scared to speak, the sobbing Jaro merely nodded his head shakily.
“Wonderful.” The boy then turned to Thomas. “Here. He’s all yours.”
Without warning, the boy let go of Jaro’s arm, took a step backward…and shoved Jaro’s back as hard as he could with the heel of his foot. Caught off guard by the rough gesture, Jaro stumbled forward a couple steps before he fell down on his stomach with a loud crunch.
Thomas rushed to his fallen friend moments after screaming out his name; Marlis and Koji were not far behind – only Gus remained where he was, still too shocked to move. The farmers helped their compatriot by turning him onto his back to see if he was all right. To their relief, Jaro was still breathing and was very much alive, but the look in his tear-soaked eyes and the erratic pace of his breath was enough to indicate the ordeal had completely terrifying him.
As the farmers attempted to calm Jaro down, Marlis looked up and noticed the stranger was heading towards the inn’s front door. Anger replacing his shock, Marlis abruptly stood up and screamed out towards his friend’s assailant.
“Hey, you little gods-damned bastard! Where do you think you’re going?”
The boy stopped at Marlis’ yell and turned his head to face the farmer; the same cold, unsympathetic look was there in his eyes. “What? You want a turn?”
The gaze alone was enough to cause Marlis to hesitate for a moment, but the farmer was filled with too much ire to let a mere gaze get to him. “How…how can you just calmly walk away after threatening to kill someone like that? Do you think this is a game, you little punk? Do you think you can walk away from this just like that?”
The boy gawked at Marlis for a couple seconds before he turned away. “Do I think this is a game? Of course I do. My whole life I’ve been a pawn in someone’s sick, twisted game called destiny, being forced to do things against my will. Almost everyone has used me to their own end at one point or another, so I think I’m entitled to return the favor.”
Marlis had to blink several times to make sure he had just heard correctly. “What? That doesn’t even make any sense…!”
“Of course it doesn’t, you turnip!” the boy snapped back fiercely. “Try taking a walk in my shoes sometime and seeing what I’ve seen! Until then, you have no damn right to preach to me!”
Without waiting for a response, the boy marched towards the door, opened it, and disappeared outside, slamming the door behind him so violently that one of the hinges came loose. The only thing that followed was an eerie, bewildered silence, occasionally broken by the soft moans of a still-recovering Jaro…
—That was fun, wasn’t it, Link?—
The Voice of the manifestation of his powers, the voice that opened Link’s eyes and showed him the truth, caused Link to smile and nod in agreement as he made his way out of the village of Hariton. He didn’t know why he could always hear the Voice speak to him at any time now, but he suspected it had something to do with the abrupt snapping of the bond between his mind and soul. Perhaps the sudden break left a permanent connection between his thoughts as the Voice…
But Link didn’t care. In fact, he appreciated the Voice’s presence. The Voice had shown him the truth, and now the Voice had become his guide. The Voice had helped him immensely over the past month, teaching him how to live without depending on others’ sympathies and beseeches. Link may have awoken from his seven-year sleep long before, but only now did he believe he was finally growing up. Only now did he feel that he had become what he needed to be: a wanderer, a self-dependent vagrant carving out a new life for himself in a lifeless world he had no right to be in. He was walking down his own path, this time without people forcing him to choose between a select number of choices.
And boy, did he enjoy it. Watching that Hylian farmer squirm with the hookshot aimed at his head was the most fun Link had for a while now. He never intended to kill the man, just teach him a lesson he would never forget. Had Sheik or Navi been around, they would’ve berated him for doing something so “cruel”…but they weren’t here, and Link could not care any less.
Besides, that farmer was a Hylian. Why should Link give one flying lark about Hylians after what they expected from him as the Hero of Time…?
—So where are you off to now?—
Link grinned as he took a quick look behind him, watching Hariton slowly disappear behind a hill in the distance before he finally faced forward again. “I think I’ll head north. I hear the forests up there are filled with bandits.”
—Very good choice. You need some good fighting practice. That farmer was hardly a challenge—
“Naturally,” Link thought with a beaming smirk.
—Besides, I believe your pouch is running low on Rupees. Those bandits should have plenty for you to pilfer—
Link nodded in agreement as he gently patted his Rupees pouch, feeling how incredibly light it was. By the sounds of things, he guessed he had about fifteen green gems left inside. He did almost regret buying so much of that milk, but he was thirsty…and besides, Lon Lon still made the best milk in all the land…
A loud bray brought Link out of his thoughts and directed his attention to a cluster of trees standing near the road. Tethered to one of the tree trunks, grazing on one of the few patches of fresh grass available, was Epona. The beautiful mare had just noticed her master returning and straightened her legs and back out, as if awaiting Link to mount her. Link smiled, grateful that Epona was loyal to him like this…
…but as he approached her, his steps suddenly began to move slower and slower. His breathing deepened and his tightly knit brows loosened as the smile on his face melted into a weak frown. As Epona’s fiery red body drifted closer and closer towards him, Link could feel his heart grow a little heavy.
This wasn’t the first time he had felt this way. No, he had experienced this feeling many times after what happened that day…
The pale blue light of the corridor grew dimmer and dimmer as he marched down the corridor, his eyes shining with a passionate desire to get as far away from the Fairy Mother and his so-called friends as possible. Eventually, the blue light that bathed the tunnel disappeared altogether, leaving Link in the dark and forcing him to follow the corridor by keeping his hand against the wall.
As he walked, many things flashed through Link’s mind: the anger he had against those who had lied to him, the frustration of not seeing it before, and the satisfaction that he had actually severed ties with them. However, one more pressing thought did enter Link’s mind: where did this tunnel lead to? And even if it did take him outside, how was he going to climb down Death Mountain without a guide?
Some of his concern was laid to rest when he saw what could only be daylight twinkling at the end of the tunnel. However, all of his worries were gone when he stepped out into the evening air and noticed a path leading from the mouth of the tunnel down the mountain. The path was worn and covered – it had obviously not been used for ages – but it was good enough to confidently lead Link down the mountainside.
It wasn’t until evening that he finally found himself at the foot of Death Mountain, the distant rumbling of the volcano replaced by the loud chirping of crickets. Breathing a sigh of relief at escaping Death Mountain’s menacing surface, the former Hero of Time then made his way around the base of the mountain towards Kakariko Village. The trek around the mountain’s foundation was longer than he would’ve liked – he only hoped that Sheik hadn’t gotten to Kakariko before he did…
To his relief, his arrival at Kakariko after a couple hours of grueling walking was met not with Sheik but with villagers, holding torches and huddled near the edge of the village, staring up at Death Mountain. Link could only guess why they were there, but he assumed it had something to do with his “healing” of Death Mountain with the Bolero of Fire…
Just then, as he drew closer towards the crowd, a couple people noticed him and started informing everyone around them. Within a few seconds, every pair of eyes was staring at him quietly, some of them filled with confusion while others with patient eagerness. Link tried to ignore looking at anyone, already knowing what everyone wanted to ask him about…
“Hey, you…” a man from the crowd abruptly called out.
“Curses, here it comes,” Link thought as he turned to face the man. “Yes?”
“You’re the one who left with mother to go the mountain, weren’t you?”
Mother, Link thought with a perplexed look before he remembered that Sheik was known throughout the village as “mother” to hide his identity “Yes, I was.”
“Then where is she?” a woman asked. “Wasn’t she supposed to come back with you?”
Link directed his gaze towards the woman and grinned. “Unfortunately, mother had to stay behind to do…something important. She sent me on ahead to tell you she’ll be down soon.”
A soft whisper began to arise amongst the crowd, pressuring Link to change the subject as quickly as possible.
“Mother also informed me that I…have something important to do elsewhere. She told me I need to leave as soon as possible, so I would be very grateful if someone here can prepare some provisions for a few days and ready my horse.
The crowd fell silent at those words, not quite sure what to think of them. However, everyone soon began to whisper amongst themselves once more before a female voice near the back of the crowd finally spoke up. “Will mother be following you on this journey?”
Link could taste the satisfying irony as he smiled and answered, “No, she will not be accompanying me on my journey. She’ll be staying here, as far as I know.”
“All right. I’ll go get your horse. She’s the bright red one, right?” asked a young man who looked about Link’s age.
Link nodded. “Exactly.”
“And what kind of provisions would you like?” asked an old woman to his very left. “Anything in particular?”
“Hmmm, I think I’d like some cheese and some fresh fruit…”
Link answered many other questions from the villagers before they finally let him go. He then had to sit and wait for his rations to be prepared and Epona to be readied for what felt like hours. By the time someone informed him that everything was ready, he nearly snapped at the man out of frustration and impatience, but he forced himself to keep it to himself. After all, he didn’t want anyone to suspect anything…
He followed the man to the main entrance to Kakariko Village, where Epona was quietly awaiting her masters surrounded by a few villagers holding torches. Trying his best not to laugh, Link smiled as graciously as he could when he accepted the bags of rations from some of the village women. He secured those provisions in Epona’s saddlebags before he nodded in approval.
“Many thanks for your help,” Link uttered to everyone. “Now I must be off.”
Link then quickly mounted his steed, making himself comfortable in the saddle before grabbing the reins and giving them a firm tug, making sure they were secure. The villagers silently watched the Hylian climb upon Epona’s back and waited for him to get comfy before one of the village men spoke up.
“I don’t suppose you have any idea when mother will be back?”
Link sighed loudly and looked down at the man. “Look, I don’t know when she’s returning. She didn’t say when she’ll be back…”
“That voice… please don’t let it be…”
But Link’s plea went unheard when he turned around and saw a familiar figure entering the torchlight from the direction of Death Mountain. Actually, Sheik didn’t advance alone or under his own power. The Sheikah was lying in a stretcher that was carried at either end up a pair of Gorons, neither of whom appeared to be Malatite. Lying upon the boy’s lap was the Master Sword, wiped clean of any trace of Link’s spit but looking less majestic than it usually appeared. Sheik was obviously still too weak to move on his own, but the look in the Sheikah’s eyes indicated that lack of strength wouldn’t slow him down…
“Sheik…” Link mumbled, not bothering to use the Sheikah’s codename anymore, much to the horror of the surrounding villagers.
The two Gorons twisted the stretcher around so that Sheik could get a good view of the mounted Hylian. “Link…what are you doing? Why did you run off like that…and why did you…?”
Link decided not to give Sheik a chance to finish. “Like I need to explain myself to you, you bloody liar.”
“Liar…?” Sheik muttered weakly. “Link, I…I don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“Oh, yes, you do!” Link asserted. “All this time I’ve been taken in by the garbage you’ve spouted in my direction time and time again. Well, never again! From now on, I make the decisions…and I’ve decided I don’t need you or your lies anymore!”
“Link…” Sheik called out in an almost painful tone. “You’ve got it all wrong…”
“Like Hael I have!” Link snapped back with a gruff hiss, causing the villagers surrounding to take several steps back in panic. “If you can’t understand what I’m talking about, then I’ll spell it out for you! You forced me to be the Hero of Time by claiming it was part of my destiny! You forced me into a role that I absolutely despised, using every opportunity to make sure I didn’t question it or try to get out of it…and I fell for it!
“But not anymore. I know your tricks, Sheik. I owe nothing to destiny…in fact, I don’t believe in it. I’m going to live my life by my own decisions. You will not control me any longer, you miserable bastard.”
Sheik seemed to shudder violently as he held out a hand from the stretcher. “Link…please, don’t do this…”
“And why not…?” Link demanded angrily when he noticed something glowing in Sheik’s stretched out hand.
It was Navi. The tiny fay was kneeling in Sheik’s outstretched palm, her eyes looking directly into Link’s as her pink light flickered softly with a hint of sadness. She didn’t appear to be injured after Link had flicked her from his shoulder, but the look in her face suggested she had been hurt another way…
“Link…” Navi squeaked quietly, her voice noticeably trying to hide her tears.
“Navi…” Link muttered, unable to say anything else as he looked at his guardian fairy in her miserable state.
“Please…” the fairy pleaded, one of her tiny hands reaching out towards her charge. “Don’t…leave me…”
A great weight seemed to fall inside Link’s heart as he heard those words, and his anger slowly began to dissipate. What was he doing, he asked himself. Is this really what he wanted? Did he really want to…
—No! Don’t listen to them! They’re trying to trick you by playing with your sympathies! They’re trying to pull you back in! You made your choice! Don’t let them change it for you again!—
The Voice’s words rang through his mind clearly and swiftly, their logic understandable and undeniable. The heavy feeling inside his heart was instantly lifted and his face hardened once again.
With that single word, Link turned his back on Navi, directing his gaze forward. He tightened his grip on the reins and raised them in the air, preparing to snap them and send Epona into a gallop…a gallop away from those who were trying to stop him. But before he could snap them, he heard that squeak voice call out to him one more time.
Link lowered his head for a second…but only for a second. Growling to himself, Link took the reins and whipped them furiously against Epona’s neck, causing the mare to bray loudly before pushing herself forward.
“Link…no, don’t leave me…Link!”
But Link refused to turn around and look at his fairy once again. His eyes focused on the dark horizon of the night before him, the vague destination of his new life without those that stood in his way. He was finally free…free to live as he chose without anyone choosing for him. He was no longer Link the Hero of Time. He was Link. Just plain Link.
However, not even his complete concentration could prevent one final, haunting scream from reaching his ears:
“Liiiiiiiiiink! Nooooooooooo! Don’t leeeaaave meeeee! Pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaassseee! Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiink! Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiink…!”
—Hey! What are you thinking about?—
Link shook himself awake when he heard the Voice, feeling the memory of him abandoning Sheik and Navi fading from his thoughts…just like it had done so many times before. He glanced at Epona, who was eyeing him curiously, and then looked up at the sky. He then looked down again and shook his head.
—If that’s the case, then I suggest you pick up the pace a little. We’ve got no time to waste. A storm’s on its way—
A quick glance in the right direction confirmed the Voice’s statement. In the far distance to the north he could make out dark thunderclouds rumbling their way in his directions.
“I see,” Link said to himself and to the Voice at the same time.
Without another word, Link untied Epona from the tree and lifted himself into her saddle. He then used the reins to point her in the right direction before cracking them once, signaling the horse to move. Epona obeyed by propelling herself forward at a powerful gallop, carrying her master towards the distant forests to the north.
As she steadied out her pace, a fork of lightning streaked across the sky ahead…
The rumble that followed that powerful thunderbolt seemed to shake every house in Kakariko Village, threatening to tear it apart with its mighty howl. But the village remained standing, and everyone in it seemed to breath a collective sigh of relief as rain started to fall from the sky. No one dared leave their homes to be caught outside in this storm, and no one dared to suggest otherwise.
However, in a small one-roomed hut in the center of the village, at least one person decided not to let the storm impede him in any way…
“Our carrier killed by bandits…? No wonder the message didn’t get through, curse it.”
The Sheikah slammed his fist onto the table for the fourth time as he read a scroll detailing the progress report from one of the villages where the resistance movement operated. He didn’t mind the pain he received from slamming his hand down so hard – the uncomfortable period he spent resting from his injuries sustained in the Fire Temple taught him how to put something miniscule like that into perspective.
However, although he had completely recovered from his injuries, the news he was reading in the progress report wasn’t exactly making him feel at ease…
“Three of our soldiers killed by Moblins…? I thought I told them not to go through with that surveillance mission! Food supplies are running low…? Of all possible times, why now? Mercenaries sniffing around suspiciously…? Curse it, I told them to keep those blighters away…argh!”
In frustration, Sheik scrunched up the scroll in one hand and hurled it across the room. He didn’t even watch it soar into the air and land in the fireplace, bursting into flames as it touched the searing coals – he simply buried his face into his hands, releasing a deep sigh and shaking his head angrily.
“That’s the third negative report I’ve had this week…” he whispered tiredly to himself. “If this keeps up, there won’t be a resistance at all within a few months.”
Sheik then threw his head backwards, tipping his chair a little as he stretched out his back. “On top of it all I haven’t heard anything from Impa for a while. I wonder what’s she’s doing right now? I hope she’s all right…”
The Sheikah then leaned forward again once more, this time resting his head on his arms folded upon the tabletop. “And let’s not forget about him…”
Shiek quickly fell silent, realizing he was about to say something he shouldn’t. He had been talking more to himself than anything, but there was someone else in the room with him that didn’t need to be reminded of what had happened a month ago…
To Sheik’s dismay, he discovered that it didn’t matter – he could already hear a tiny yet audible bawling sound coming from across the room. Sighing once again, Sheik forced himself stand up and shuffle his way across the room towards the fireplace.
The Sheikah stopped at the fireplace’s mantle and gently leaned down so he could make his face level with a small birdhouse seated upon the mantle. A regular person might be wondering what a birdhouse was doing on a fireplace mantle, but Sheik knew all too well. It was the only place where she could really live comfortably for the time being, at least until things between her and him were sorted out…if they would be sorted out at all…
Careful not to say anything, Sheik adjusted his gaze until one of his eyes was peering inside the birdhouse’s hole. Although he was blocking the torchlight behind him, the flickering pink glow inside was enough for him to make out a tiny shape kneeling inside, crying her eyes out. He could hear her sobbing more clearly now that he was this close, which made it even more heartbreaking…
“Navi…are you all right?” Sheik uttered softly. “I’m sorry if I upset you…”
The fairy lifted her head from her face to look at the Sheikah, her face stained everywhere with tears. “I’m…I’m fine, Sheik…it’s not your fault. Don’t worry about it.”
“Are you sure? You’ve been crying every day ever since he…well, I’m just concerned about you, Navi.”
Navi shakily wiped a tear from eyes, though she appeared to be on the brink of releasing more at any moment. “Thanks…for your concern, Sheik…”
Navi didn’t say anything else because she had already said everything she wanted to say many times before. Sheik could still hear some of the phrases whisper their way into his mind: “Link…abandoned me…”; “Link hates me”; “He’s gone…Link’s gone forever…”; “He wanted to kill me”; “I don’t know if I can go on…”
Sheik couldn’t begin to imagine the pain Navi’s heart was experiencing. For Link to abandon his guardian fairy like that was perhaps the cruelest thing he could’ve done to her. This was nothing like the time when Navi left Link on her own accord because she didn’t like the way he was acting – that was her own decision, and even then she still remained close to him. No, this was different. Completely, entirely different…
“May I…come out…?” the fairy asked timidly.
Sheik immediately backed away from the birdhouse and nodded. “Yes, yes, of course you can. You don’t need my permission.”
Navi’s light seemed to brighten a little at those words. She did still hesitate a little before leaving the birdhouse, as if scared something would attack her from out of nowhere, but as soon as she fluttered slowly out of the little hole she appeared to grow a little more confident.
Sheik quietly watched the tiny fay glide around the air for a while, allowing Navi to gain some self-assurance. “How are you feeling now?”
“A…a little better, I suppose,” Navi answered quietly.
Sheik nodded. “That’s good to hear.” She then sighed gently before adding, “Look, Navi, I…I just want you to know something…I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? For what?” the fairy asked quietly as she floated down onto Sheik’s shoulder, wiping her tearstains from her face.
“For…for what happened with Link,” the Sheikah replied, his voice growing a little shaky. “And I’m not just sorry for…for what he did to you. I’m sorry because…I feel as if…I’m responsible for it.”
“Responsible for it?” Navi mimicked softly. “How so?”
“I…I don’t know how to explain it, but…but what Link said before he disappeared, those things he accused me of…something in my heart keeps telling me that Link was right.”
“He was right? In what way?”
Sheik had to take a couple deep breaths before he could answer. “I can’t help but feel…but feel that yes…I did…I did lie to him.”
Sheik almost expected Navi to lash out at him for confessing that, but the fay somehow remained calm without a hint of visible anger. “You do? I see…but what lies could you have possibly told him?”
“Several,” Sheik admitted. “I told him so many things ever since we first met…and a lot of what I said to him could easily have been a lie. But the thing is…I probably didn’t know I was telling him lies. Maybe I believed in the lies as well…”
“Are you sure it wasn’t the dark powers he was trying to confront? Maybe those powers warped his mind and are controlling him…”
“No, I don’t believe that’s the case, Navi.”
Sheik almost seemed to hang his head in shame. “Because Link’s not the type of person who can be controlled. No…he can’t be.”
Navi squinted her eyes and leaned in close to Sheik as she calmly asked, “And how would you know something like that, Sheik? And what exactly are you getting at?”
The Shiekah’s eyes closed as he replied, “Seven years ago, Princess Zelda…”
A series of firm knocks drew the attentions of Navi and Sheik towards the front door. A shaft of lightning streaking past the windows, followed by a powerful rolling of thunder, reminded them that the weather outside was less than pleasant.
“Strange…what’s someone doing outside in this weather?” the Sheikah asked aloud as he strode towards the door.
“Maybe it’s another messenger?” Navi suggested.
“I don’t think so,” Sheik answered as he grabbed the door handle. “I’m not expecting anything or anyone…”
With a firm yank, Sheik opened the door, immediately sending gushing winds and driving rain through the doorway. Sheik was forced to shield his eyes and Navi was almost blown off his shoulder. But to both their surprise, they didn’t see anyone standing outside.
“Must’ve been some debris…” Sheik proposed before a voice abruptly cut him short.
“Down here, my friend.”
Both the fairy and the Sheikah looked downward at the voice’s request. It was then that they finally saw someone – a little boy – standing at their feet, looking up at them. The boy was wearing a dark cloak around his boy, causing him to blend in against the gloomy night created by the thunderstorm. Only the boy’s face was visible behind the cloak, but Sheik immediately recognized who it was.
However, it was Navi who first said the boy’s name. “Kaepora? Is that you?”
The pixie nodded.
“What are you doing here?” Sheik asked. “Has something happened?”
Kaepora Gaebora made sure he had a serious look in his eyes before he gave a response. “The Fairy Mother wishes to see you two.”