It was incredibly cold…almost frighteningly so. As Link struggled to open his eyes, whose lids felt tighter than a Goron’s grip, he couldn’t shake off the feeling of iciness running through his skin. He tried to move to warm up his muscles a bit, but he discovered his muscles refused to move. He also realized much of his body was coated in a dreadful itch, one permeated by a warm, uncomfortable fabric wrapped securely around many parts of his body.
Parts like his head…and his stomach…and his right hand…
It was then that memories were jolted in Link’s mind, memories concerning what had happened to him not too long ago. He started to remember things…things he would much rather forget. Things like Ganondorf capturing him and extracting his “essence”. Like that essence forming his dark counterpart, which tried to kill him. Like that counterpart nearly killing him…and Malon…
Malon…what happened to Malon…?
With a new motivation, Link found energy to open his eyes. He still could not move much of his body, but as his eyes unwrapped all the way he learned he could swivel his head a little bit, which was all he really needed. But when his eyes were completely open and he was certain he could see he was disappointed by what he saw.
Darkness. Nothing but darkness, as if his eyes were still shut. He tilted his head both ways slightly to see if it might change things, but he found inkiness in all directions. Either his vision wasn’t working, or he was in a very dark place…or maybe a combination of both. Still, he did learn something else during his brief head twists: his head was lying on something soft and flexible, strongly indicating a pillow, which in turn suggested a bed.
Just then, Link’s thoughts were cut off when light penetrated the darkness off to the side. He tried turned his head to catch a glimpse of the source of the light, but the light disappeared just as quickly before he could see it. Before frustration could set in, Link’s throbbing ears heard a soft, rhythmic sound coming from the same direction as the light, a sound slowly but noticeably growing louder with each beat.
Footsteps…heading in his direction…
“Who…who’s there…?” Link called out in a hoarse whisper, spending quite a bit of energy to just get his vocal chords working.
The footsteps stopped for a moment, as if hearing Link’s voice surprised their owner. A ringing silence followed for about half a minute, and then the footsteps resumed, this time at a slower pace. The person who was heading towards Link in the darkness…had he become cautious? If so, why…?
“Who…who’s there…?” Link cried out again, this time a little louder though still quite huskily. “Answer me…or I’ll…”
“Shhhh…don’t worry, Link, it’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you.”
The voice sounded very familiar, but Link couldn’t put a name to it. Was the voice’s owner a man or a woman? Old or young? Someone he knew, or a stranger with a recognizable voice? He tried as hard as he could to dislodge the memory that would reveal this mystery person’s identity, but he still felt incredibly groggy despite being awake.
Miffed that he couldn’t even recall something this basic, Link called out again, “Who…who are you…?”
“It doesn’t matter who I am,” the mystery guest replied. “I’m here to watch over you.”
Watch over him? That didn’t make any sense…
“What’s…going on here…?” Link croakily demanded. “Where…am I…?”
Just then, something slender and warm gently fell onto Link’s lips, preventing him from speaking. Link instantly recognized the object as a person’s finger, and by the way the pressure was applied against his mouth the finger’s owner didn’t appear hostile…
“Shhhh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh…” the voice tenderly pleaded. “You’ll have plenty of time for questions like that later. For now, you must get some rest. You’ve been through a lot, and you’ll need to get back your strength.”
Confusion sank deeper into Link’s mind as he tried to figure out who this person was. Apparently this person knew him…and knew him enough to care about his wellbeing. But that still created a sizable list of people who could be identified as this familiar stranger. If only he could remember the voice…
Suddenly, the finger disappeared from his lips. Link glanced around as frantically as he could in the darkness, wondering where the mystery being had gone. He tried listening for footsteps or rustling of clothes that might give away the person’s position, but he heard nothing. Was the individual still standing next to him, looking down at him while he couldn’t look up at…at…whoever he or she was…?
A soft groan abruptly pierced the inkiness, and the bed – at least he assumed it was a bed – tilted downward a little. Link’s bleary mind rapidly searched for an answer to this, and in his current state of consciousness he could only deduce that someone was sitting on the edge of whatever bed he was lying on…
“Where…where are you?” Link called out gutturally. “Stop playing games…with me. Tell me who you…are or…”
Once again Link’s words were cut off, and once again it was by a finger…or rather, a whole set of fingers. Link’s words froze in his throat when he felt about four or five fingertips begin to stroke the skin across his cheek, gliding down his chin carefully and affectionately before lifting up and returning to a spot near his ear, beginning the cycle afresh.
Was this person…caressing him…?
“You’ve endured a lot of pain, Link,” the mystery voice abruptly yet tenderly uttered, “and I can only imagine what you’ve experienced. Some details about your ordeals I’m still unfamiliar with…but what you’ve been through is something I would never wish upon anyone. And I can’t help but believe…that I’m responsible for it.”
Responsible for it? Who was this person…?
Before Link could reorganize his thoughts, he felt four or five more fingers touch his face, this time on the opposing cheek. To his unforeseen embarrassment, two hands were now caressing his face in a manner that suggested this person had a little more interest in Link than he thought.
He only hoped it was a woman…
“Who…are…you…?” Link tried to ask again, but the mystery person didn’t answer.
Instead the individual’s hands stopped caressing and lightly cupped his cheeks, steadying his face so it was facing upward. His neck muscles too weak to shake free, Link was forced to stare up into the nothingness, wondering what this familiar stranger was up to…
The person’s soft, almost sad sigh was followed by another gentle creaking of the bed, suggesting the person was shifting weight. But for what reason…? Suddenly, his question was answered when he felt more skin press against his face…only this time it was another face! There was no mistaking it: the large patch of elegant, warm skin against his forehead was another person’s forehead. And that light feeling brushing against his nose…was that really someone else’s nose…?
“What…the…?” Link gruffly blurted out, caught completely unaware by this strange turn of events.
Now he really hoped the mystery guest was a woman…
“Link…forgive me,” the stranger whispered as warm breath drifted down onto Link’s lips. “This should never have happened to you. I should’ve been there to protect you. I should’ve been there to guide you…but I allowed something like this to happen. I’m sorry…I’m truly and deeply sorry.”
As discomforting as this felt, Link couldn’t help but wonder what this person was talking about. As this stranger referring to the events at the Water Temple, or something else…then again, what else could it be other than the Water Temple?
“You’re one of the few precious things I have left in this cruel and terrible world,” the stranger continued – where those eyelashes tickling Link’s eyebrows? “I don’t want to lose you…not again. Not again…”
Few precious things? Lose him again? Now Link was starting to get scared…
Then, without warning, the face gently pressed against his own disappeared…only to return as he felt a fragile chin dig into his forehead. Before he could even blink in surprise, a pair of moist lips planted a loving, delicate kiss on his brow. The kiss lasted for about five seconds, during which Link’s mouth gaped open in stunned silence and his eyes stared blankly into the darkness, still unable to see the face of the stranger.
When the kiss finally withdrew from his temple, Link also felt the hands clamping his head in place leave…not that he cared. He was still too astounded to even think straight.
“When this is all over,” the voice continued, “I promise I will explain everything to you. You deserve an explanation…but for now, you need to get some rest.”
The next thing Link knew, he felt a small hand cover his eyes and gently slide down his face, bringing his eyelids down with it. Link tried to object to this, but for some reason he could resist this person’s enigmatic, affectionate touch. He could also feel his strength slowly disappear, drawing him back into a dreamless sleep.
“We’ll meet again, Link. I promise…”
It was at that moment that Link’s mind found a memory that strongly hinted at the identity of the stranger. He tried search for related memories that might confirm this idea, but he was drifting off to sleep too quickly for him to get any verification. Still, that didn’t stop him from giving himself an opinion on the possibility:
“No…it couldn’t be her…could it…?”
Link had no idea how long he slept after that, but when his eyes opened once again he felt as if he had slumbered just as long as, if not longer than his seven year imprisonment in the Chamber of Sages. Also, as his eyelids slowly cracked open, he noticed he could actually see something other than a blinding darkness this time.
Rather, he could see a blinding light…
The brightness only lasted for a few moments, thankfully; by the time it faded, Link’s eyelids were more or less open and his vision had returned to a stable normalcy. Things were still noticeably blurry, but he could make out objects clearly enough to recognize them. And, unlike before, he could actually move more than his neck muscles this time around.
The first thing he noticed was a ceiling reminiscent of the one found in Lon Lon’s farmhouse, indicating Link was in somebody’s home. A brief glance around revealed to him the size of the room in which he was located, a size only slightly larger than the bedroom he used back at the ranch. Only a few select pieces of furniture occupied the chamber, including a cabinet, a short one-legged table, and a wall mirror. A brown door stood closed directly next to the mirror, and on one end of the room a small rectangular window with transparent curtains sat fixed in the very top of the wall (odd place to put a window), explaining the bright light in the room.
Link inspected the room for another couple minutes before deciding to get a better look. Taking a deep breath, he prepared his muscles to help him sit up. As he shifted his weight, he heard a strangely familiar creak. It was then that he realized…or perhaps remembered that he was lying on a bed. He glanced down and found himself covered by a thick red blanket tucked in around the edges of the bed. A quick shuffle of his body confirmed that the blanket was secured firmly around the bed, meaning either Link was a very light sleeper…or someone was caring for him.
With a feeble groan, Link used his elbows to lift his torso upward, forcing the blanket off his body. As he did so, he felt something soft and silky tickle his chest – Link didn’t need to look down to figure out he wasn’t wearing any shirt. He ignored this detail and continued to lift himself up until he was sitting, albeit with a noticeable slouch. Sighing tiredly and sleepily, Link instinctively raised his right hand to his head to protect his mind against an incoming headache…
…and felt a sharp pain race down his arm as his fingers collided with his face.
Surprised, Link glanced down at his right hand. The palm was covered completely in fresh bandages, and the fingers were straightened out by splinters. His grogginess making sure he was feeling confused, Link tried moving one of his fingers…and a painful throbbing sensation snaked through his arm, forcing him to grab his wrist with his left hand in an attempt to numb the sting.
While moving his left hand, Link felt something coarse and prickly scrape against his stomach, like a loose piece of skin that refused to shed. Link looked down at his stomach and saw more bandages, this time wrapped around his bare stomach. However, unlike the bandages on his hand, these dressings boasted patches of dried blood all over, suggesting the wound they were treating hadn’t completely healed yet.
And as Link looked up again, he noticed the same scratching feeling upon his head. Almost nervously he let go of his own wrist and raised his right hand to his temple. Sure enough, several fresh bindings were securely draped around his skull. He felt around with his fingertips for a couple moments, as if fearing he had a hole in his head oozing fluids, but couldn’t find anything of the sort, thankfully.
Gazing down once again at his bandaged hand, Link’s mind filled itself with various scenarios of what had happened. Images of his skirmish with his dark counterpart abruptly reminded him of their existence, and Link forced himself to remember them all until the moment he collapsed just as he saw Sheik and Navi running towards him. Obviously they had gotten him to safety, else his wounds wouldn’t be bandaged. He still didn’t know where he was, although he could find that out later.
But there was a more pressing question he wanted answered: where was Malon? He quickly checked around the room again and confirmed she was nowhere to be seen, which only fueled his desire to know what had happened to her. He doubted Sheik would abandon her…but he still wanted to know…if only to lift some weight off his shoulders…
And then there were the other questions he wanted answered. How long had he been asleep? Did Ganondorf know where he was? If so, was he sending in troops to finish what Dark Link didn’t? And, if only to satisfy his curiosity…
…what happened to him the last time he had opened his eyes?
“Did that really happen?” Link thought as he clutched the side of his head with his left hand in confusion. “It seemed so real…and yet it feels so distant, so…dream-like. Maybe it was a dream, because it couldn’t have been her. Not her…”
Despite nearly convincing himself, Link reached out with his left hand to touch his forehead. Predictably, the patch of skin there was dry…though it would be dry by now, whether someone kissed him there or not who knows how long ago. Shaking his head, Link slumped forward with a deep sigh. He felt a bit of a sting as he applied pressure to his tender wounds in his chest, but he bit his lip slightly to numb the pain.
“In any case,” Link continued, “I guess I need to find out where I am before…”
Just then, Link’s ears heard something…a soft, muffled sound – more than likely voices – coming from behind the door. Link quickly looked up…as quickly as he could, anyway. As his gazed rested on the wooden portal before him, another sound started to accompany the voices: soft, rickety footsteps across stiff floorboards. Forcing his throat to swallow, Link strained to listen to what was being said; before long, he could make out some words as the person speaking them drew closer and closer to the door…
“…her bandages…cleaning…don’t worry…take care of him…promise…”
Then, as Link struggled to hear more, a loud clack was heard as the door’s handle unlocked and the door swung open, revealing a shadow-filled room behind it…as well as…as…
“Yes, I’ve got everything covered here, don’t worry, I…oh ho ho ho?”
The person who had opened the door cut himself off when he noticed Link, sitting up in the bed and staring back at him with a wide-eyed gaze, gaping mouth, and a pale complexion. But by the mildly surprised look in the newcomer’s eyes, Link could tell that the stranger was familiar with; Link, on the other hand, had no idea who this guy was.
The man was old…really old – Link wouldn’t be surprised by any large number the man might give as his age, no matter how absurd it sounded. His height barely reached the elevation of Link’s chest, not to mention the man slouched even more than Link was at the moment. Dressed in blue robes with no discernable patterns or markings, the man wielded a crooked walking stick with hands as bony as an animal carcass devoured by forest vultures. But the man’s face – with as many wrinkles as the number of rings of an ancient oak tree – revealed a look of vigor in his aged frame.
Both Link and the old man stared at each other for half a minute before the old man abruptly smiled, flashing a mouth filled with deformed, yellow teeth. “Yhoy hoy hoo huoy hoy!” he excitedly uttered, scratching the top of his bald head. “You’re finally awake! How delightful!”
Still feeling a bit dazed, Link gently shook his head. “Um…who are you…?” he asked as loudly as he could.
“Oh ho ho ho ho ho!” the man giggled…giggled? “You’ve been asleep for almost a week. That must’ve been quite a fight. You’ll have to tell me about it. You’re one tough lad. You must tell me how you do it. Yhoy hoy hoy!”
Link couldn’t possibly betray any more astonishment in his face. “What…in the world…?”
“Excuse me for a moment,” the man continued. “I need to go fetch your friend and tell him you’re awake. There’s some water on that table next to you if you’re thirsty. See you in a bit.”
Link tried holding up a hand. “Wait…tell me…”
But Link wasn’t in time to stop the old man from slamming the door behind him, leaving the room quiet once again.
An uncomfortably long silence followed as Link continued staring blankly at the door, expecting the man to return with his “friend” any time now. When the man didn’t return, Link tore his gaze away from the portal, looking out into nothing for a few moments. Quickly growing bored with that, Link glanced down to the left side of the bed. Just as the man had said, a glass of water was sitting on the one-legged table, just within arm’s reach of his bed.
Suddenly feeling parched in his throat, Link reached out and grabbed the glass, quickly bringing it to his lips and taking an enormous sip. He nearly sipped too much, sending trickles of water down his windpipe and forcing him to cough a couple times, but he managed a more stable swallow with the next sip. Refreshed, Link lowered the glass into his lap, sighing softly. He looked around the room quietly again for another moment before looking down at the glass, seeing his reflecting in the quivering liquid.
“This ‘friend’…that man said ‘him’, so it must be Sheik,” Link thought as he swirled the water around in the glass for no reason other than to keep himself occupied. “But is Sheik really my friend, after all that he did to me…” A loud hiss escaped Link’s lips. “Listen to yourself…how can Sheik not be your friend? He tried to warn you about that bastard Voice and gave you the Master Sword when you really needed it. But then again…he did lie to you…”
A little bit of water spilled onto Link’s hand as he swirled the cup around. “But he did save you…and Malon. He had to have saved Malon. Sheik may have lied to you, but he’s not heartless. He wouldn’t leave Malon to die…dear gods, I hope she’s all right. Sheik had better be taking good care of her. He would…he’s my friend…but he did lie to me…”
As if the conflicting thoughts were scratching against his mind, Link placed his right hand against his head…and quickly removed his hand when the resulting sting reminded him of what had happened to it. Frustrated, Link sighed loudly as he angrily look up…and caught sight of his reflection in the mirror.
He didn’t know why he didn’t notice it before – maybe he was too preoccupied with other things – but now he could see his reflection as clear as day. He could see what he truly looked like, see every intricate detail of how pathetic he had become. The bandages covering a good deal of his body, the pale skin stretched across his face, the glassy look in his eyes…he looked nothing like the Hero of Time…or even what he envisioned himself to be when he threw away that miserable title, for that matter.
His left hand squeezed the glass cup tightly as thoughts flooded his mind…thoughts of what had happened only a week ago – was it a week? Yes, it was – a week ago back at the Water Temple. Everything from Ganondorf’s extraction of his “essence” to Malon’s horrifying “death” to destroying that despicable bastard Voice. As images rolled across through his memories like a twister, one thought jumped out at him and refused to let go of his attention. One detail clawed against his heart with no remorse or pity, making sure he understood it perfectly.
He was responsible for what had happened to Malon.
There were many excuses he could come up with to shift the blame to someone else, but one fact was indisputable: that dark thing that had come out of him, the physical manifestation of the Voice, existed because he allowed it to fester inside of him. Even if he had listened to Sheik’s warning, it probably wouldn’t have helped. That creature had grown too powerful, and once it got free it did just what it wanted to do: kill the one who had refused to do what it wanted.
Not to mention destroy everything Link held dear…
With that thought stuck in his mind, the reflection in that mirror looked all the more repulsive. Yes, Dark Link was a vile monster…but from where had that monster been spawned…?
“How could I?” he cried inside his head. “How could I let that…thing exist?”
As he asked this question to himself over and over, his kept staring at his reflection, forcing himself to stare at the person who gave birth to that depraved fiend. His body quivered more and more violently as he studied every detail of that reflection, watched it stare back at him with an aghast look, watched it slowly change…morph into something else…
…into the very image of Dark Link.
“How does it feel?” Dark Link asked from the mirror. “How does it feel to look at yourself in the mirror and see something you despise, knowing it’s really you?”
Link covered his face with his bandaged hand in a vain attempt to look away. “Shut up…”
“How does it feel?” the reflection continued to pester.
“I said shut up…” Link demanded, clenching his teeth together.
“How does it feel? How does it feel? How does it feel?” As the likeness continued to press for an answer, the face of Dark Link abruptly covered the entire mirror, its hollow eyes glaring right at Link with its familiar smirk. “How does it feel? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…!”
Link felt his teeth grind together…
“Oh ho ho ho ho huoy hoy! Calm down there, my boy. Your friend’s not going anywhere soon in his condition.”
Sheik tried to calm himself down upon hearing those words as the old man bent down to lift the trapdoor in the floor, but it was difficult. His hands were shaking with excitement and there was noticeable anticipation in his eyes. Hearing that Link had finally woken up clearly had an effect on him.
“I’m sorry…I’m just glad to know he’s up and awake,” the Shiekah admitted. “He was in such an awful state when we first found him and all…”
“Yes, yes, yes, hoy hoy houy,” the old man chuckled as he lifted a large wooden slab cleverly concealed against the other floorboards, a soft groan emitted by the creaky hinges. “We know all that. Still, he does look quite fragile. Rushing in there wouldn’t be wise with his condition. So let’s take things slow, okay, oh ho ho hoy?”
Sheik admitted the old man had a point, but he still couldn’t calm himself down. Still, he verbally acknowledged it. “If you say so, Dr. Garigan.”
As the old man threw the trapdoor all the way open, he eyed Sheik with a strange, goofy look. “Dr. Garigan…it’s been so long since I’ve heard anyone call me that.”
The Sheikah scratched his head in confusion. “But I called you that just a couple hours ago.”
Dr. Garigan blinked. “You did? Oh hoy huoy hoy, I must be getting senile…or eccentric. Either way, I’m getting old.” Shaking his head, he took a step down inside the trapdoor, finding a staircase leading downward. “Never mind. Come on.”
Chuckling to himself, Sheik followed the old man down the staircase. As he did, he made sure to pull the trapdoor back down with him, knowing very well why the doctor hid the rooms below his house like this. The door landed shut with a gentle thud, cutting off the room below from the outside world.
The staircase didn’t go down very far – the cellar ceiling stood about as high as a regular room ceiling in the house above ground. Still, the journey to the cellar floor took longer than desired because of Dr. Garigan’s slow and careful steps down the stairwell. Despite his obvious eagerness, his wrinkled body only allowed him to move one step at a time, planting both feet and his cane on each step before moving on to the next one. Sheik, though polite enough to follow the good doctor, divulged his impatience in his body language.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, both Dr. Garigan and Sheik reached the bottom of the stairs, finding themselves in a moderate-sized room underground surrounded by large stone bricks older than the Hylian Wars themselves. Illuminated by several torches hanging on the wall, the room boasted nothing except heaps of bizarre objects piled on top of one another carelessly. In essence, the only items truly worthy of interest in the rooms were a dark passage leading deeper into the ground and a couple wooden doors fixed into the wall.
Making sure he was steadily balanced on his wooden stick, Dr. Garigan chuckled again to himself before turning to the Sheikah. “Oh huoy hoy oh. So, shall we see how our patient is now that he’s…?”
A loud crash suddenly erupted from behind one of the doors, like the sound of a window breaking. Both Dr. Garigan and Sheik instantly recognized it as coming from the room where Link was located. The old man reacted first and started hobbling his way towards the door, but Sheik had the advantage and reached the door with his speed.
“Link! What happened? What’s going on?” the Sheikah cried out, anticipating the worst as he fumbled with the lock and pushed the door open as quickly as he could.
As he stepped inside the room, Sheik felt a loud crunch under his leather boot. Distracted, he glanced down and was surprised to see tiny shards of glasses scattered all over the floor, combined with spilt droplets of water. But the shards weren’t simply made up of ordinary glass – another type of glass was also mixed in the mess. Instinctively, Sheik glanced to the side…and confirmed his suspicion when he saw the mirror on the wall next to the door, shattered and cracked.
Starting to feel uncomfortable, Sheik tore his gaze away from the mirror and towards the bed, half-expecting Link to be gone or, worse, injured somehow. Thankfully, Link was still there, wide awake and unharmed…but hardly okay. The former Hero of Time was shivering violently, his breath composed of stuttering gasps released at random intervals. His face was paler than the white sheets he lay on, and his astonishingly wide eyes refused to blink. He held his face in his hands, as if expecting it to fall off his neck, and he didn’t seem to react when Sheik burst into the room.
Horrified, Sheik darted across the room to Link’s bedside, ignoring the tiny fragments of glass seeping through his boot and cutting his feet. “Link…Link, are you okay?” the Sheikah asked the shuddering Hylian. “Link…”
“He won’t go away…” Link hastily and hoarsely muttered with a noticeable whimper. “He won’t leave me alone…he just won’t die…”
Sheik started to grow really concerned. “I don’t understand…Link, what are you talking about?”
“He won’t die…” Link mumbled, looking up at the mirror he had just destroyed. “He won’t let me be…that bastard…that…”
Suddenly, Link’s pupils grew to fill almost his entire eye. He threw his upper body back and started screaming uncontrollably. “No! No! Get away from me! Stay back! Get away from me! Don’t come any closer!”
Sheik’s gaze quickly darted towards the mirror…and saw nothing but his own twisted reflection in the crushed glass. Yet Link saw something, and despite his obvious lack of strength he struggled desperately to get away from it.
“Stay away! I killed you! Don’t come near me! You shouldn’t even alive! Get away from me, damn you! Get away! Get away, get away!”
“Link, there’s nothing there!” the Sheikah tried telling the hysterical Hylian. “Calm down, Link! Calm down! There’s nothing there! Please, stop this…!”
“Get back!” Link roared, not listening to Sheik’s please. “Get back! I’m warning you! Get back! Get back! Get baaaaccckkk…!”
Suddenly, before Sheik could stop him, Link raised his left hand towards the mirror and a swelling stream of fire burst from his palm. The flames struck the shattered glass with a deafening sizzle, melting the fragments into a metallic goop and welding them to the wall. Dr. Garigan, who entered the room just as Link raised his hand, nearly fell over as the fires singed past him.
Sheik, growing frantic himself, did the first thing that crossed his mind.
He slapped Link as hard as he could across the face.
“Link! Get a grip!” the Sheikah pleaded as the blow caused Din’s Fire to dissipate. “You’re going to kill yourself if you don’t stop this…!”
Sheik’s words were cut off when Link did something completely unexpected. The Hylian reached out and grabbed Sheik’s face with his left hand, clawing at the edges tightly to make sure the Sheikah couldn’t get away. Sheik’s face grew white with terror when he felt Link’s palm begin to flicker with warmth.
“I’ll kill you again! I’ll kill you again!” Link uttered manically in a fit of hysteria, his eyes filled with panic and desperation. “I’ll kill you again, you gods-damned bastard!”
Time seemed to stand still as Sheik froze where he stood, unable to move and escape Link’s surprisingly firm grip. Link merely stared blankly at the Sheikah, his teeth gnashing together as he prepared to use Din’s Fire once again. The air instantly grew thick with the anticipation of blood being spilled for reasons unknown…
…then Link saw the genuine fear in Sheik’s eyes…
…and saw the face of someone he knew…
“Sh-Sh-Shei…Sheik?” the former Hero of Time burbled on his quivering lips.
“Link…” the Sheikah responded in the weakest voice imaginable.
The frenzy in Link’s face started to fade, slowly replaced by recognition…and realization of what he was about to do. After a long, agonizing moment, Link removed his hand from Sheik’s face, his hand shaking feverishly. The moment Link’s grip on Sheik was gone, the Sheikah felt every muscle in his body grow limp and he plummeted to the floor, landing on his rear and somehow finding enough strength to remain sitting up.
Both Link and Sheik then sat there, quietly staring at each other for several minutes, their faces colored a deathly ashen. Then, without a warning of any kind, Link started doing something other than gape. With the look in Link’s eyes, Sheik expected Link to cry….but he didn’t.
It was a weak laugh – more of a giggle, really, that sounded like a muffled sob – and Link looked very uncomfortable as he seemingly forced each snigger out of his throat…but he laughed, nevertheless. As he strained to chuckle, he gripped the side of his head with his hands – even his bandaged one – and covered his ears, as if hearing something he didn’t wish to hear. Tearing his eyes away from Sheik, he curled up into a ball, staring blankly into space as he whimpered words to himself that only he understood.
Sheik didn’t move from where he lay – he simply sat there quietly, watching the former Hero of Time cry tears that didn’t exist, laugh at something that no one found funny…
“How are…you feeling, Link?”
Sheik’s question was asked about fifteen minutes after Link came close to burning the Sheikah’s face off. Link had calmed down by then, his dry sobs and forced snickers evaporated into an uncomfortable silence. Sheik had dared to move from his spot on the floor and position himself next to Link’s bed, while Dr. Garigan had opted to leave both of the boys to themselves to work out their problems without interference by an eccentric old man.
Link, while displaying neither a tear nor a snigger, was pale with an unknown fear. He didn’t answer Sheik’s question but instead chose to stare blankly at the shards of the mirror he had incinerated, rocking his tucked in body back and forth at a leisurely pace. The unpleasant stillness in the air was enough to motivate Sheik to ask the question once again.
“Link…how are you feeling…?”
“What do you think, Sheik?”
Link’s terse yet subdued reply was enough to silence the Sheikah. The Hylian didn’t look up at Sheik upon giving his answer, but he did continue speaking as he stared at the melted mirror fragments.
“I was stupid and careless and fell right into Ganondorf’s trap and was about to be killed…only to be saved by a freak accident…a freak accident that tried to kill me …” Link suddenly winces as he clutches his bandaged stomach with his left hand. “…not to mention it feels like I’m being eaten alive under these damned bandages…and I can’t think for even a second without pondering about what I’ve done and where in Hael I went wrong…and what’s worse…”
Link glared at the glass remains before finishing, “That bastard is still alive…”
Sheik scratched his head as he cautiously sat on the edge of the bed. “Link…I’m not following you here…who are you referring to?”
Link finally turned to look at the Sheikah, his eyes wide with anxiety. “Who do you think? The very ‘thing’ you were trying to warn me about back at the farm…the Voice.”
“The Voice?” Sheik parroted. “But...how could the Voice try to kill you…or be alive, for that matter? That doesn’t make any sense…”
Link silenced Sheik by raising his palm in front of the Sheikah’s face. Sheik, still remembering how Link nearly cremated his face, quickly fell silent. “Then allow me to help it make sense.”
Slowly lowering his hand, Link then began to tell his story of what had happened inside the
. He revealed everything he could remember, from walking straight into Ganondorf’s all-too-obvious trap to the extraction of the ‘essence’, from his intense duel with his dark half to Malon’s impalement and how he had finally defeated that twisted abomination. By the time he finished, Sheik could feel himself shiver with dread at the thought of such a vicious creature dwelling within Link’s soul, even despite Link’s attitude lately… Water Temple
“But since Ganondorf withdrew the Voice from you,” Sheik uttered after a moment’s pause, “then he’s no longer inside you. You don’t have to worry about being manipulated again…”
“That’s not true, Sheik,” Link interrupted, a sad look in his eyes.
“It’s not? Why…? Can you still hear his voice or something…?”
“No…whatever connection that had been accidentally created between my mind and the Voice is severed, probably by whatever that…Morpha-thing did to me,” Link admitted quietly. “But just because the link is gone…doesn’t mean that the essence is as well.”
Sheik took in the revelation for a few moments. “You mean…”
“That’s right…I can still feel that bastard inside me, scratching to get out. I can still feel the urges…the desire to kill boiling in my blood. I can still hear his logic echo in my mind, the reasons he used to turn me against you…it’s imprinted so deeply in my memory that even looking into a mirror could show his hideous face…my face. But do you want to know the scariest part of it all?”
Link made sure there was a pause before he revealed the “scariest part”:
“I still believe him.”
The silence that followed felt almost suffocating, enough for Sheik to initially stutter when replying, “S-s-still believe him? What are you talking…?”
“Exactly what I mean, Sheik,” Link almost snapped, giving the Sheikah a sharp look. “I don’t believe him entirely – I’m not that stupid – but I can’t deny some of the things he told me, things he…let’s just say revealed to me. I can loathe that bloody gods-forsaken creature all I want…but that doesn’t mean what he said is automatically wrong. Some of the things he said still haunt me…things that still scream at me…”
Link then tilted his head and stared into Sheik’s eyes with a bloodshot gaze. “Things that urge me almost want to put a knife in your throat.”
Sheik gulped upon hearing that as one of his hands crawled up his hands and reflectively covered his throat. Link simply stared at the Sheikah for a moment longer before looking away again. Lowering his hand, Sheik swallowed and paused for a minute.
“Things like…what?” he asked quietly.
“The biggest?” Link muttered with a sigh. “That you lied to me.”
Sheik didn’t respond to that, giving Link time to explain the accusation.
“I was told,” Link continued, growing quieter with each sentence, “that there is no such thing as destiny…no such thing as fate. Destiny said I was meant to be the Hero of Time…but the Voice said I didn’t have to be because I had a choice not to be. I didn’t have to carry that accursed sword if I didn’t want to…and after what being the Hero of Time did to me…what carrying this title took away from me…”
Link raised his head and once more stared at the fragments of the burnt mirror on the ground. “I chose to believe in him, and even now I see no reason not to. I don’t have to be the Hero of Time…and you never told me that. All you said what that I have to save Hyrule, a land I barely even know or care about, and let me go without so much as an objection. You treated me like a puppet who was meant to be a hero…something I had no interesting in being.”
Link paused as he lifted his bandaged right hand at the same level as his face and tried to flex his fingers; instead he flinched as fire crawled through his muscles down his arm. Sighing, he lowered his hand again.
“I feel so alone…” he admitted. “I don’t know who to trust anymore. That bastard tried to kill me, but…but if what he told me is true, then you’re no better. I feel as if the whole world is against me – everyone either wants me to be something I hate…or die.”
Without another word, Link curled up into a sitting ball once again, staring off into space blankly. Despite his adult body, at that moment he looked more like the child he was forced to grow out of when he drew the Master Sword those years ago.
Sheik slowly shook his head as he curled his feet up on the bed, looking almost as vulnerable as Link did. “I…I know how you feel, Link…”
“Oh, sure,” Link snorted, as if expecting such a predictable answer. “What would you know about what I’ve been through?”
“Quite a bit, actually,” Sheik replied in a surprisingly tender tone, enough so that Link turned his head slightly in the Sheikah’s direction. “Like you, I lost someone dear to me because of this war – my father – and every day I wish to the Three Goddesses I could get him back. Like you, I’ve been forced into something I never wanted to do in the first place, which is lead a resistance against the man responsible for inflicting a living Hael upon Hyrule. There are days when I want to do what you did – throw everything away and start anew.”
“Then why don’t you?” Link asked, almost intrigued.
“Because…I have a responsibility. Just because I don’t want to do it, doesn’t mean I should just walk away from it. Without me, the resistance could very well crumble, and Ganondorf will win. That’s all there is to it.”
Link quietly stared at Sheik for a moment…before turning to look away. “Feh! Responsibility…that’s a laugh. What good is responsibility when your whole life is destroyed because of it? You might think doing something like that is noble…but to me it’s stupid and worthless, especially in my case. You’re fighting for something you obviously care about…but me? I’m fighting for a land I couldn’t give even one damn about. No one cares about me in Hyrule, so why should I care about them?”
“But you’re wrong, Link…there are those that do care about you.”
“Oh, yeah? Like who?”
“Well…” the Sheikah hesitated for just a brief moment, “I know of a very special girl who not only cares for you deeply, but proves that you’re wrong about being alone. She loves you very much and will do anything to see you again, even after what you did to her.”
Link’s face tightened in uncertainty. “Excuse me? Are you talking about Malon…?”
“No, I’m not referring to Malon,” Sheik uttered as he leaned forward. “Please, Link, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about her…”
Link blinked several times, wondering who Sheik was talking about…when suddenly he understood. His face lit up with remembrance, his eyes wide with realization…before a sad expression melted into his face. As if the very memory of “her” was too much for him, his head drooped down from his neck.
“Oh…her…” he whispered hoarsely.
“I can understand you not trusting me, Link…and hating being the Hero of Time,” Sheik continued, “but do you honestly believe that she did anything to you to warrant you abandoning her like that?”
A long silence followed before Link finally replied. “…No, she didn’t.”
“Then why did you?” Sheik asked quietly. “Why did you do that to her?”
“Because…” Link gulped in his throat. “I was led to believe…that if I was to abandon that wretched title as the Hero of Time, I needed to leave behind everything associated with it…and that included her.”
“Did the Voice tell you that?”
“Yes…but I believed it.”
“But do you believe it now?”
Another stillness ensued. “…No.”
Sheik nodded before placing a hand on Link’s shoulder. “You want to see her again…don’t you?”
Link raised his head, his lips pursed together. Without saying anything, he nodded his head slowly.
“She wants to see you too,” Sheik revealed, “and she’s waiting for you this very moment.” The Sheikah moved to get off the bed. “I’ll go and get her so you two can…”
Before Sheik could get off the bed, Link reached out with his right hand and grabbed Sheik’s arm. He winced at the resulting pain, but he kept the bandaged hand wrapped around the Sheikah’s wrist. Sheik stopped as soon as he felt the Hylian grab him.
“No…” Link said with some melancholy in his voice. “…take me to her. She shouldn’t come to me – I should go to her.”
“But…your wounds…” Sheik protested before Link leaned forward and narrowed his eyes.
“I said…take me to her…now.”
By the time Link reached the top of the flight of stairs in the basement, he was flushed bright red and could feel scratchy heat flowing through every fiber in his body. He could still recall every step sending a wave of excruciating fire searing through his veins, how even getting out of bed and shuffling his way out of the bedroom felt like running a marathon twenty times over.
But he didn’t care; he just grit his teeth together and forced himself to move, using Sheik as support. Still, by the time the trapdoor leading to the basement was closed behind them and both the Hylian and the Sheikah were above ground, Link’s breath was heavy and strained. Yet he had to do this, if only for her…
Now standing inside a small but surprisingly adorned library, the pair were hardly amazed when they saw Doctor Garigan sitting in a chair, reading a book. He noticed the two as they emerged from the trapdoor that blended in with the tiled floor, but it wasn’t until he himself stood up that he noticed Link using Sheik as a crutch.
“Wait a minute, hoy huoy!” the doctor cried, standing up. “What’re you doing up? You’re not supposed to be out of bed, you need to rest…”
Link didn’t say anything, but he did turn his head slowly and lethargically so he could give the doctor a dark, cold stare. Dr. Garigan’s eyes widened as the Hylian glared at him with an undeniable snarl, his legs beginning to shake enough almost to send him tumbling back into his chair…
“Link wants to meet with someone – if he doesn’t, he’ll have gotten out of bed with or without help,” Sheik quickly informed the old man. “We’ll try to be as quick as possible.”
Sheik then as carefully yet rapidly as possible started ushering the sagging Hylian out of the library, leaving Dr. Garigan to stare back at them with a speechless tongue.
The moment they left the library, Link turned his gaze toward Sheik. “Who is that guy, anyway?”
“He’s. Dr. Garigan,” Sheik answered without halting their progress as they entered a hallway. “He’s a marine specialist who also practices natural medicine. He lives on a hill overseeing the
Hylia, which is why you’re still alive. The next closest doctor sympathetic to the resistance lives far away.” shore of Lake
“So he’s part of your little movement, is he?” Link sighed.
“That’s right. Obviously he’s in no condition to fight or anything, but he provides a lot of valuable intelligence that might’ve slipped past our spies…it was he who first revealed the location of the
, for example. He’s also sheltered several members of the resistance being pursued by Ganondorf’s troops – the bedroom you slept in was occupied by many a freedom fighter over the past few years.” Water Temple
“I see,” Link uttered as the two of them shuffled their way into a small kitchen. “He’s a little…weird.”
A faint smile emerged on Sheik’s lips. “Yeah, he is quite…eccentric. Still, he’s a really nice man and he has some fascinating stories to tell. Maybe when you’re better, you can get to know him…”
“I’ll think about it,” Link hurriedly interjected. “So where is she? Is she not in the house?”
“No, she’s outside, sitting underneath an oak tree just outside this door. She said she’d keep a lookout for Moblin patrols…but I think she wanted some time to herself.”
“I see…” was all that Link uttered.
The walk across the kitchen to the door that led outside seemed to last an eternity as each step across the wooden floor scratched the wounds in Link’s belly. Gritting his teeth to bare the pain, Link pressed on with Sheik propping him up, forcing himself to remain awake despite the pain threatening to cripple him.
Finally, the two reached the door and Sheik pushed it open. The direct sunlight in his eyes blinded him to the world for a brief moment, but Link managed to see properly as he carefully stepped outside of Dr. Garigan’s house. True to Sheik’s description, the house rested on the peak of a rounded but elevated hill, surrounded partially by tall trees in the direction opposite the drained
. Link assumed that the hill had a much prettier view seven years ago, but the sight of the lake only reminded him of how dead the world had become. Lake Hylia
Also true to Sheik’s word, a tall oak tree perched at the edge of the hilltop, its ancient roots digging into the ground in an attempt to stretch its branches out in as many directions as possible. A small natural garden of wildflowers was nestled in the grass at the tree’s base, the various vibrant colors standing as a minor example that not everything in this world had been corrupted.
Resting on one of the brightest flowers amidst the patch was a familiar pink light…
Feeling a lump in his throat, Link hesitated before he took a couple steps towards the tree. She probably hadn’t seen him, but she certainly knew he was there – Link could only imagine what was going through her mind right now. The Hylian swallowed his lump and took one final step before stopping a stone’s throw away from the noticeably still fey.
Clearing his throat, Link finally spoke. “Um…hi…Navi…”
A painfully long silence followed before the fairy stirred slightly, though she didn’t turn around. “Hi…Link.”
Feeling more than a little uncomfortable, Link continued. “How…how are you?”
“I’m fine…thank you.” It was clear that Navi was trying very hard not to cry as she spoke.
“I see…Link muttered before he scratched his neck for a moment. “Look, Navi I…”
He paused. For some reason he then glanced at Sheik, who merely traded stares at both the Hylian and the fairy every so often. Realizing the Sheikah wouldn’t be able to help him in this matter, Link swallowed his pride and stared directly at the pinkish fairy.
“Navi, I…I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have abandoned you like that. I was being stupid…there’s not excuse for what I did. You’ve been a good friend to me and…and I’m sorry for leaving you behind and…and for hitting you like that. I don’t deserve to be your friend but…but I want you back, Navi. I’m sorry…by the Three Goddesses, I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?”
Link expected Navi to react in some what after saying that…but surprisingly the fairy didn’t move from the flower on which she was perched. She simply stared off into the distance, her only movements being a gentle swaying in rhythm with the warm breeze.
Growing worried, Link lifted a hand in Navi’s direction. “Um…Navi…?”
Link’s jaw hung from its hinges when he heard the fairy’s squeaky voice say those words. “What…?”
Suddenly, Navi launched herself into the air with tremendous speed and darted in Link’s direction, her light flickering wildly. Unable to dodge in his condition, Navi collided against Link’s chest with unexpected force, enough to knock the Hylian off of Sheik’s shoulder and send him tumbling backwards. Link landed on his back with a muffled thud, instantly sending vibrations through his sensitive wounds.
But he had no time to even wince in reaction when he felt small thumping against his chest, as if tiny fists were beating against his skin. Struggling to lift his head, Link saw, to his amazement, Navi crouching on her hands and knees on Link’s torso, banging her clenched hands furiously one after the other against his ribcage. The fairy’s eyes were closed and her mouth was gnashing, as if she were struggling to hold back even more anger.
As Sheik kneeled down to see if Link was all right, Link blurted out in the direction of the fey, “N-Navi…”
“You idiot!” the fairy cried, continuing to slam her fists. “You stupid, stupid idiot! How could you do that to me, you big jerk? How could you leave me like that? I have a good mind to beat you senseless!”
Without missing a beat, the fairy started pounding Link’s chest with only one hand, her teeth clamping together. “I should knock your head off your shoulders for doing that to me! I should slap you across the face! I’ve been with you through thick and thin, and how to you repay me, you ungrateful little brat? You flick me across the room like an insect and leave me behind without even saying anything! You thankless little bugger!”
Link was about to say something when he felt something cold and wet drip onto his chest. He didn’t have to ask or squint to realize that Navi was crying and her tears were falling onto his skin. At that point, Navi’s little body went limp, her fists no longer beating Link’s body and her head hanging low as she struggled to remain crouched.
“How could you…how could you…?” She repeated this several times before finally raising her head to look at Link with her tear-filled eyes. “Don’t leave me again…don’t ever do that to me again. I don’t want to lose you…not like that…don’t leave me…please, don’t leave me…”
Navi then collapsed, her body falling into a heap on Link’s chest. Her pink light continued to flicker wildly as her wilted arms hugged Link’s ribs, as if fearing he would leave her. All the while she continued to cry fiercely, occasionally mumbling the same plea that Link wouldn’t abandon her ever again…
Partially because what he saw tugged painfully at his heart, but mostly because he had little strength left, Link’s head drooped backwards against the ground, forcing the Hylian to look upward while his tiny companion cried her eyes out on his torso. He didn’t say anything – not to Navi, not to Sheik – but instead stared up at the sky, his mind racking as hard as it can to come up with a suitable response…but finding none. Sheik, meanwhile, merely watched as an unwitting spectator to this heartbreaking drama.
The three of them remained there for what seemed like forever, the sun slowly beginning to set across the horizon…
“Can I see her, Sheik?”
Four days. That’s how long after Link had met with Navi when Link finally asked that question. He had asked it once before, and he wanted to ask it again sooner – oh, gods, did he ever – but Sheik’s response to the first time he had asked that question still echoed in his mind:
“Not yet, Link. She needs a lot of rest and care – she’s in a very unstable state and we could send her off the deep end if we’re not careful.”
As much as he wanted to see her, Link knew from experience that a wrong move could result in catastrophic consequences – he simply had to try to flex his right hand to be reminded of that. So instead, he took the time to get reacquainted with his fairy, something he never thought he would be doing…or enjoy, for that matter.
Navi’s crying that day lasted well until the sun was halfway behind the horizon, and it was then that Link was forced to give a response to her pleas. Still a little unsure about it, he forced himself to promise he would never abandon Navi again, privately uncertain if he would actually keep that promise. Navi, with her pompous attitude, told him that “Good…if you didn’t say that, I would’ve killed you”, but the tone in her voice betrayed her silent relief and undisclosed joy. Even then Link didn’t know if he had made the right decision.
Over the course of the next couple days, however, he came to realize just how much he had missed the fey. Still too weak to really move about on his own, Link had returned to his bed, where he remained for the next two days. Navi remained by his bedside every waking moment, talking to him and teasing him incessantly, as if making up for lost time. At first the experience was uncomfortable for the former Hero of Time, but soon he wondered how he had ever gotten along without her.
If anything, having Navi around provided him with a relaxing connection with his past…or at least the fond memories he had of his Kokiri heritage.
By the time the second day rolled around, Link had regained enough energy to move about comfortably in his bed without feeling any pain flare up in his torso. Sheik removed the bandages around his stomach to reveal a nasty scar, but the mark only annoyed him with a severe itch for a while.
The bandages around his head came off on day three, and no permanent damage was discovered in that region. That left only the bandages around his right hand, but Link already knew the distressing truth concerning his hand, revealed by Dr. Garigan a couple days earlier: his right hand would never fully heal. His doppelganger’s sword and severed vital nerves and destroyed a lot of the bones in his palm and fingers, meaning his hand could never do anything like hold a sword again…
Despite that unsettling revelation, Link kept himself occupied with Navi while regaining his strength and taking off his remaining bandages. By the time the fourth day arrived, Link decided it was time to see if he could as that “question” again. On the morning of the fourth day, when the Sheikah entered Link’s bedroom with some breakfast, the Hylian wasted no time in asking:
“Can I see her, Sheik?”
Sheik froze for a moment, caught off guard by Link’s swiftness, before he quietly placed the food down on Link’s bedside. “I’m…not sure,” the Sheikah replied. “I’ll have to ask Dr. Garigan if you can…”
“Can you ask him now?” Link asked, both tersely and politely. “Please, I really want to see her…”
Sheik hesitated for a moment before he sighed. “All right…I’ll go ask him. Just wait right here…”
The Sheikah then disappeared out of the bedroom, leaving Link alone with his fairy. Trying his best to be patient, Link picked up the plate of food Sheik had placed down and started eating with his hands. As he did this, Navi, sitting on the rounded end of one of the bedposts, kicked her legs a little as she watched her charge get some food in his stomach.
“You’re really worried about her, aren’t you?” the fairy asked as Link finished off the food on his plate.
“What a silly question …of course I’m worried about her,” Link uttered while licking his lips. “It was because of me that she was nearly killed, after all.”
“Because of you…?”
“Ganondorf wanted me and the ‘essence’ inside me…so his kidnapped Malon in order to get to me. And I…failed to protect her when that bastard double of mine ran her through with his sword…” Link’s hand started to tremble a little as the memories returned to the forefront of his mind. “It’s almost enough for me…not to believe…she’s alive…”
“But she is alive, Link,” Navi reassured, flying off the bedpost and onto Link’s shoulder. “That kooky doctor and Sheik are doing all that they can for her, I’m sure…and when Sheik gets back you might even get to see her…”
Just then, the door to the room opened and Sheik entered. “I just talked with Dr. Garigan. He says you can see her now if you want. Her condition has stabilized enough.”
Link’s eyes lit up with glee. “I can…? Wonderful!” He quickly hopped out of bed despite being slowed down by some stiffness in his joints. “Then take me to her!”
The Sheikah led Link out of the bedroom and into the garbage-filled room where the staircase was located. Link half-expected Sheik to take him into the other wooden door in the room, but instead he took him down the dark passageway at the other end of the chamber. With no torches to guide them, Link and Sheik had to rely on Navi’s pinkish glow to see anything, though Sheik obviously knew where he was going…
“Where are we going?” Link asked as he followed the Sheikah, his movements noticeably laborious and tiring.
“To some of the deeper bedrooms,” Sheik explained. “Dr. Garigan wasn’t able to close your friend’s wounds for the first few days, so he decided to relocate her to a deeper location so any patrolling Moblins wouldn’t smell her blood.”
Link’s face lit up with worry. “He couldn’t close her…her wounds are that bad?”
“They were more than that,” Sheik admitted as they turned a corner. “She would’ most certainly be dead if Dr. Garigan didn’t get to her when he did.”
“But she’s okay…” Link uttered almost frantically. “Tell me she’ll be okay…”
“I want to tell you that, Link, but…” the Sheikah paused awkwardly.
“But…what?” Link asked, his face almost growing pale.
Sheik cleared his throat. “I think…I should first show you…”
Without another word, the Sheikah led a visibly impatient Link further down the corridor until they came to a series of doors on either side of the hallway, a series of burning torches lining the walls between the portals. Sheik picked one torch off the wall and then opened one of the doors at the farthest end of the passage. Link and Navi were not too far behind.
Sheik opened the door slowly and meticulously, and by the time it was ajar enough for someone to enter Link had had enough. He pushed past the Sheikah, who made no motion to resist, and entered the dark room without caring he couldn’t see where he was going. Navi trailed closely and helped illuminate some of the room inside, but it wasn’t until Sheik entered with his torch that the Hylian could see everything.
The room mirrored his own very closely – he could even see some of the exact same pieces of furniture – though there was a noticeable exception of a window. The floor was also stone instead of wooden, further indicating this was the lowest location in Dr. Garigan’s underground network of fugitive quarters. Still, he wasn’t bothered by petty details like these; without hesitating Link quickly looked around for the bed.
He found the bed quickly…and instantly saw its occupant: a red-haired girl with her familiar farm attire draped over the edge of the bed. Upon seeing her face for the first time in a while, Link’s face lit up.
“Malon!” he cried out happily in his mind before rushing to her bedside. “You’re all right! You’re…by the Three Goddesses…”
It was only when he stood next to the farm girl’s bed that Link realized that not everything was well with his friend. Malon was definitely alive – her breathing more than confirmed that – but she didn’t appear to have that much life left in her. Her skin was pale and deathly, and her hair withered and dry. Her eyes were closed lightly yet firmly, and her lips were blue and cold. Even in the dim light provided by Sheik’s torch, Malon appeared more like a corpse than a living person.
But the worst was yet to come. As Link trailed down Malon’s body, he noticed bandages all over…especially across her upper chest. White cloth was wrapped all around her bosom, many of the pieces soaked with dried blood. Some of the bandages were tearing apart because of the sogginess, exposing patches in between the dressing, and what Link saw amidst those patches sent shivers up his spine. A large, pus-filled wound seemed to cut all the way through her body above her left breast…the very spot where Dark Link had run her through. It was obvious the wound was trying its best to heal itself, but the trickles of blood spilling from the gash’s edges indicated it was having a lot of trouble doing so.
Unable to look any longer, Link tore his eyes away from the farm girl…which was right when Sheik spoke.
“Now you can see for yourself, Link,” the Sheikah said sadly. “Malon is alive…but she’s gone through a lot to stay with us…and will go through a lot more just to get back on her feet.”
Already shivering at the state of his good friend, Link turned his attention to Sheik, his eyes wide with genuine panic. “Is she…going to recover…is she really going to fully recover?”
The Sheikah hung his head sadly. “She will recover…but not fully. She’s lost a lot of blood, which will take years for her body to rebuilt again. And while the wound in her chest thankfully missed her heart, the blade punctured one of her lungs. Dr. Garigan saved it as best he could, but it’s not enough to return her to normal. He said that, at best, she will be able to walk around again, but she won’t be able to perform strenuous activity without fear of collapsing. At worst…”
Sheik didn’t finish that sentence, leaving it to Link’s imagination to fill in the blanks. Deciding not to get the macabre details in that line of thought, Link didn’t ask for them but instead forced himself to look at the corpse-like body of Malon once again. “But…but farming is her life…”
“There’s even more bad news,” Sheik uttered.
Link could feel a lump build in his throat. “Which is…?”
“Even before we left the ranch, I knew that if you rescued Malon, Ganondorf was not going to just leave her alone anymore. Ganondorf won’t allow her to go back to her farm and live in peace like before. She’s now a hunted target…along with her father, his farm hands, and all the animals on his ranch.”
Link opened his mouth to say something, but Sheik didn’t let him.
“So before I left, I told Talon to head to
and ask members of the resistance to help relocate his animals. By the time she’s healed, Malon won’t have a happy home to greet her…she’ll be on the run until either she or Ganondorf is dead.” Kakariko Village
Now Link had no trouble looking at the pale body of Malon – the thought of her life being shattered just like that was more than enough for him to worry about. “No…that’s not possible…” Link uttered in an almost breathless voice. “Malon has no part in this. She never asked to be part of this…she doesn’t deserve this…not this…”
Link abruptly turned around and shouted with a surprisingly loud tone. “Why is this happening to her? This shouldn’t be happening to her! She never wanted this! She doesn’t deserve it! How can you just stand there and say stuff like that with a straight face? Malon didn’t ask for this…!”
“Things happen, Link,” the Sheikah interjected. “Whether or not we like the result, whether or not we asked for it, it doesn’t matter. You can’t stop the inevitable.”
At first Link merely gaped at the Sheikah, but then he clenched his teeth into a vicious gnash. “Are you telling me that this was part of Malon’s destiny? If so, then you’d better get far away from me, Sheik, before I wring your filthy neck…!”
“No!” Sheik suddenly boomed, taking a couple steps forward in an almost commanding form. “This isn’t destiny – this is life! Destiny is only one part of the greater order of the world, it isn’t the only one or even the dominating one. Even if you believe you can run away from fate, you cannot run away from life. Life happens because of the choices we’ve made, and once we’ve made those choices there are often times when we cannot undo them.”
The Sheikah pointed at Malon, forcing Link to look at her once again. “This is an example of a choice you made. You chose to abandon the title of the Hero of Time and to reside on Lon Lon Ranch. As a result, Ganondorf seized the opportunity to use her as bait in order to get to you. Your choice led to this, and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Despite his growing anger at Sheik’s abrupt and unexpected boldness, Link couldn’t find any words to argue with the Sheikah. He simply stared at the dormant farm girl, knowing full well that it was because of him that Malon was here in this condition. However, just because Link didn’t have anything to say…
“Sheik!” Navi bellowed in her tiny voice as she fluttered up to his face. “How can you say that? Are you trying to make Link feel bad…?”
“Only if it’ll open his eyes, Navi,” the Sheikah uttered. “Open his eyes to the truth.”
“And what truth is that?” Link demanded, once again turning to face the masked boy. “That I’m supposed to be your bloody Hero of Time?”
“No…” Sheik stated with a shake of his head. “That you have a choice.”
Link’s face flowed instantly with confusion. “What…?”
“You said that you had the choice over what you wanted to do: whether to be the Hero of Time, whether to obey the Voice or disregard it, whether to stay with Malon or leave her…and you’ve chosen your paths. The choices you’ve made may not have had favorable results, but that doesn’t mean that you still don’t have a choice.”
The Sheikah’s eyes darted to the sleeping Malon. “Your choices led to this poor girl being in this state, and you cannot choose to undo what has happened…however, you can choose to atone for it.”
“A…tone for it?” Link repeated, not quite sure what Sheik was alluding to.
“Atone for it…fix what you can…make amends for what you’ve done wrong. You cannot return her body to how it was before, but you can destroy what tried to harm her in the first place.”
Link’s eyes suddenly narrowed – it didn’t take a genius to realize where Sheik was heading with this…
“Ganondorf captured her to get to you, and his twisted desire to get to your essence led to her near death. And even should she fully recover, she will forever be on the run because of her ties to you. That is not what you want for her, is it? You don’t want Malon to be a part of this terrible, cruel war. But that choice is forever gone now. Until Ganondorf is dead, she will never be truly safe.
“With that in mind…I’m sure you understand what needs to be done.”
Sheik then fell silent, allowing Link a few moments to think the matter through. The Hylian remained quiet for a few moments, his head lowering down as his scruffy locks covered his eyes. Then, from out of nowhere, he chuckled…
“Yeah…I understand,” Link said with a fake sense of irony. “You want to use this situation to your advantage…and use revenge as a way to motivate me. You want me to go after Ganondorf so I can not only avenge Malon, but also save your precious Hyrule, in essence killing two squirrels with one stone.”
“I won’t lie to you, Link,” Sheik didn’t hesitate to reply. “You want me to be honest with you, and I will. You were chosen as the Hero of Time, and nothing can change that. You may not believe in destiny or love holding that title, but you are the only one who can save Hyrule. We need your help, and I will do everything I can to get it…even if it means using something as shameful as revenge to enlist your help.”
“So you want me to become the Hero of Time again, is it?”
Sheik wavered before nodding. “Yes.”
“And you want me to save Hyrule in the process of defeating Ganondorf, right?”
“And to do that, I need to visit those three remaining Temples and awaken the remaining Sages, right?”
Link nodded. “I appreciate your honesty, Sheik…but honesty alone isn’t enough to make me became that which I despise. Why should I do your dirty work while trying to fulfill whatever motivation I might have?”
Sheik sighed softly before answering, “Because if you don’t…there won’t be anything for all the Malons of the world to live peacefully in anymore.”
Link blinked. “Malons? What are you…?”
“Look at Malon again, Link,” the Sheikah pointed. “Look at her again.”
Link did look at Malon again, still finding her image rather sad to look at.
“Do you think that she is the only person who lives in Hyrule? There are countless women like her…women with dreams of their own, with families and homes and lives that they live to the fullest. You only know one Malon in this lifetime, but there are many more that you will never know who will die with this world – along with this Malon – should Ganondorf continue his vile reign. Can you honestly live with that knowledge, Link?”
Link stammered for a moment, not quite sure what to say…
“And the Talons of the world…all the hardworking men who build good lives for themselves and their families, who raise their daughters with love and pride…the Talon you know and the many Talons you will never know will all be lost with this dying world should you choose to do nothing.
“You may not care about the land of Hyrule, Link…but how do you know that Hyrule doesn’t care about you?”
The logic of Sheik’s words refused to slip from his mind. As if in a vain attempt to escape it, Link stepped away from Sheik towards the bed, his eyes still fixed on the slumbering Malon. As Sheik drove his point home, Link knelt down beside the farm girl, still gazing at her pale face.
“We all have a responsibility, Link…” Sheik uttered. “We may not like the responsibilities we’re given, but we have to fulfill them. You were given the responsibility to save this dying world, and you cannot run away from it no matter how hard you try. Ganondorf thought you were just a nuisance before, but now he will hunt you down relentlessly to find and kill you. If you don’t accept your responsibilities…you will die.”
As though trying to find comfort from Sheik’s sound common sense, Link gently took one of Malon’s hands in his own and squeezed it gently. Malon’s eyes fluttered a little and her breathing deepened just a tad…but then she returned to her regular state of sleep.
“You have a choice, Link,” Sheik said as he moved forward and placed a somewhat comforting hand on Link’s shoulder. “You have a choice: to become the Hero of Time…or die. You don’t have to become the legendary hero to save Hyrule, but you have to save this land if you are to save Malon. There is no way around it. I’m not hiding anything from you…not this time.
“The choice is yours and yours alone to make.”
A thick, saturating stillness followed. Neither Link nor Sheik nor Navi moved from where they were for what seemed like an agonizing eternity. Finally, Link let go of Malon’s hand and slowly stood up, still staring only at the farm girl in the bed.
“Link…?” Sheik asked when the Hylian quietly interjected.
“I’ll…think about it.”
Two days later, Link made his decision.
He burst into Dr. Garigan’s study on the morning of the second day after seeing Malon, finding both the doctor and the Sheikah talking amidst themselves. Fully energized and almost completely healed, the Hylian looked almost exactly like the person Sheik remembered as the Hero of Time. His bandages finally gone – even from his right hand – Link was dressed in his usual green attire, cleaned up and looking strong enough to take on a pack of Moblins.
“Link…?” Sheik started before Link gave his reason for the rude entrance.
“Give me the Master Sword.”
At first Sheik was confused…but then he understood. “You mean…” he blurted out as he stood up from the chair he was seated in. “You mean you’re going to…?”
“Yes…” Link uttered reluctantly. “I will be your Hero of Time. As much as I hate that name…I will not allow Ganondorf to ruin Malon’s life any longer…or the lives of anyone else. That man will pay for what he’s done…he will pay dearly.”
“Wonderful!” Sheik exclaimed, clearly excited by Link’s decision. “Wait right here, I’ll go get the blade.” The Sheikah then darted out of the study, leaving Link alone with the old man.
The eccentric doctor tapped his fingers a couple times before he spoke. “Ho ho ho hoy…so you’re actually going to go fight again, are you, hoo houy?”
Again reluctantly, Link nodded a confirmation.
“That’s nice, huoy hoy,” Dr. Garigan uttered with a toothy grin, “but I must inquire about something…you’re right-handed, are you not?”
“I am,” Link answered. “So what?”
“Your right hand was permanently destroyed, remember?” the doctor pointed out. “You can still hold some things normally, but holding a sword with that hand will be impossible now. So how can you possible fight with it, huee hoy?”
Before Link could reply, Sheik returned with the Master Sword in his hands. “Here it is,” the Sheikah uttered, offering it to the Hylian.
Link smirked first at Sheik and then at the doctor. “Who says what I do with my right hand…?” Link answered to the doctor before taking the legendary blade in his hand…but not his…
“…I can’t do with my left?”