"Where is he? He’s never this late! What’s he doing?"
Link couldn’t answer Malon’s fervent questions as he watched her pace around the room. Instead he continued to glance at the door in hopes that the person Malon wanted would arrive so her discomfort could end.
After finishing lunch the two had wandered around Market Square for a while longer before Malon finally decided that they could stop, break, and wait for Malon’s father so he could take Link to the palace. Navi, in particular, felt relieved. Malon took Link and Navi back to the inn where Link had encountered Master Bilton, the innkeeper with short patience and temper. Luckily, the owner of the "Fire Boar Inn" wasn’t around when the three arrived, so they easily slipped into the room Malon and her dad were renting.
Once inside the room, the three waited for Malon’s dad, Talon, to return from his appointment at the castle. To pass the time, Malon taught Link several games using items called "cards." Of course, because Link was new to the games, he wound up losing to Malon’s experience, but he eventually learned the games fluently enough that he didn’t lose with an excuse!
As time passed, and the sun began to set over the horizon, and Talon didn’t show up, Malon’s cheerful personality slowly began to grow tense and agitated. She started to lose interest in playing cards and even allowed Link to win one hand! Eventually, she abandoned the cards completely and began pacing the room back and forth, her hands fingering each other frantically. Link at first didn’t say anything, but ultimately he had to say something.
"What’s wrong, Malon?"
"My father’s never been back this late before. He’s usually back long by now. What’s taking so long?"
After that answer, all that was exchanged between Link and Malon was meaningless gibberish and an occasional comment on the fact that Din’s Eye was slowly nearing its hiding place over the horizon. From the outset, Navi fluttered impatiently around the room, refusing to say anything. As time passed, however, even she couldn’t deny the sensitivity of Malon’s situation and lightened up somewhat on her mood. She even once attempted to speak to calm Malon a little, but she at the last moment decided not to say anything.
Very soon, Malon’s pacing included tears slowly filling her eyes. The tears blurred her vision so much that she inevitably tripped on one of the room’s small rugs and went crashing to the ground. Her strong farm-kept arms saved her from landing on her face, but the actual fall was enough to convince her that she was falling apart.
Right in front of Link and Navi, she curled up into a ball, her head resting between her legs, and cried her tears out.
Link, unable to witness such a scene, slowly walked to the farm girl, knelt down behind her, and wrapped both his arms around her waist. It was a move Saria had used to comfort him many times after one of Mido’s painful teases. Now he was using the move to comfort his new friend.
Almost immediately, Malon lifted her head and looked down at Link’s arms. She then gently caressed them with her hands, feeling the skin that had spent nearly all of its life exposed to the forest. To Malon, Link’s skin was tough and coarse, yet somehow she founded an underlying softness buried deep within it. It wasn’t necessarily a softness of physical contiguity, but one of character. One composed of compassion…
Malon smiled at Link’s solacing move and wiped away the tearstains from her cheeks.
"Thank you…" she whispered before hesitating and adding a final word, "…Link."
Zelda stared silently at the chair she and Impa had placed at the window. She didn’t sit in it, just stared. She wore nothing but her nightclothes and her white robe, leaving her partially exposed to the crisp night air that glided into the garden and across her delicate skin. But Princess Zelda didn’t notice the coolness of the air. All she noticed was the chair, the chair she would sit in tomorrow in order to watch the meeting between her father and the King of Thieves.
One thing about the piece of furniture did stand out. Carved and painted on the chair’s back was the symbol of the Royal Family; the familiar ensign of the relic regarded as the most powerful artifact ever created. The one considered by many to this day to be nothing more than an ancient legend.
The sacred Triforce.
Zelda tried to picture the Triforce, tried to picture the amount of power it possessed, but her imagination alone couldn’t fathom the relic’s magnificence. Thought considered a myth by many, she knew in her heart that the Triforce was real. And she was also sure that Ganondorf knew the legend was real.
That could be why he was here, in Hyrule. To steal the Triforce for his own greedy ambitions. But Zelda knew that that was nothing more than wild speculation. She didn’t know a thing about Ganondorf other than that he was the King of Thieves, Lord of the Gerudo, and one not to be trusted. He might not even know about the Triforce’s existence, for all she knew!
But she couldn’t take any chances. Ganondorf may be an explicit embodiment of all things evil – at least to her he was – but he wasn’t stupid. He had something up his sleeve, and she couldn’t let him have his way. She would do anything in her power to stop him, even if she had to sacrifice her own life for the sake of Hyrule.
But deep in her soul, she wished that the handsome man from her prophetic dreams would arrive and help her. She didn’t know why or how, but he could be the only way to save the land she loved so dearly…
Link woke up with a start, his breathing rapid and sweat dripping down his cheeks. He placed a hand across his chest to feel his swift heart beating before looking around with blurred vision at his surroundings.
The sun had set long ago, but the light of a single candle gave off enough light in the room for Link to see clearly. He was lying on a single bed made of a material much softer than the wood of his own bed back in the Lost Woods. Lying right next to him was Malon, her closed eyes facing him with an enigmatic, blank stare that was bordered with remnants of tears around the eyelashes. She was sleeping peacefully, apparently not disturbed by Link’s awakening by the same reoccurring nightmare.
As Link slowly calmed down, he remembered everything clearly. Malon had remained in Link’s arms for a few minutes longer after her words of gratitude before Link made the suggestion that she get some sleep. He would stay awake and rouse her should her father Talon appear in the middle of the night. Malon thought about the matter before agreeing to it, but on one condition: that Link lie next to her to comfort her to sleep.
Link, not one to refuse a friend’s request, allowed Malon to sleep on one of his arms, which he wrapped around her neck. Malon fell asleep surprisingly in a few minutes, but not before muttering a final word of thanks for being such a good friend. Link remembered staying awake for quite a while before he, too, fell asleep, thus allowing the usual nightmare to invade his sleep…
"Link," said the soft voice of Navi.
Link looked around before spotting the fay above his head to the right. "What is it, Navi?"
"I know this may sound rude, but we can’t stay here any longer. We have to get going, even if it has to be without Malon’s father’s help."
"Don’t worry about her," Navi asserted with a surprisingly gentle tone. "Her will’s a lot stronger than you know. I’m a fairy, Link, remember. I can feel her energies radiating even this very moment, and they’re stronger than you give them credit for."
Link stared at the fair a bit longer before turning back to the sleeping farm girl. "Even so, I can’t just leave her like this. I can’t just abandon her without…"
"Link, the Great Deku Tree’s last dying words were meet the Princess of Destiny. We can’t abandon his request just because of one person. I know how you feel, Link, and I know how Malon feels. But we can’t stay here any longer. Try to understand. We just can’t."
Link wanted to protest further, but Navi’s words bouncing around his mind stopped him. He had to admit that the little fay was right. Navi hadn’t always been the comforting presence he had believed a Kokiri’s fairy to be, and she even occasionally snapped at him needlessly. But her words seemed to wash away any doubt Link may have harbored about her. Sure, she may sometimes be a pain in the neck, but in the end she did what she felt was right.
"I guess you’re right," Link replied finally. "Let’s go."
"Thank you, Link," Navi said softly.
Link’s arm had slipped from underneath Malon’s neck long ago, so he had no trouble getting up from the bed without disturbing her. He then tiptoed across the wooden floor to the chair where he had hung his shield and his belt with his pouch, slingshot, and sword. He grabbed his belt and wrapped it around his waist and then slung his shield over his back. He then was about to head for the door when he stopped and looked back at Malon.
Even from a small distance away Link could make out the tearstains around the farm girl’s eyes. Link knew he couldn’t just leave Malon without telling her that he would be back. But how could he tell her without waking her…? Just then, Link had an idea. He slowly unsheathed his sword and held it before his face, staring at its shiny blade before making his gaze focus on the hilt. The small red jewel affixed in the sword’s hilt seemed to wink back at him.
Without hesitating, Link used the small fingers of his free hand to pry the small red jewel from its notch in the hilt. Within moments, the red eye glittered in his palm. He held it silently for a moment before walking quietly back to Malon.
"Link," Navi whispered, "what are you doing?"
"Saying goodbye," Link answered as he stopped above the sleeping girl.
As gently as he could, Link took one of Malon’s hands and opened it partially. He then took the jewel and placed it directly in her palm, pressing it slightly to close her hand. In response, Malon’s fingers delicately yet firmly clamped together, as if to say that they would protect the jewel for Malon until she woke up.
Link smiled slightly before turning back to Navi and nodding. "Okay, we can go."
Ganondorf smiled to himself as he lay on his bed, his gaze affixed to the smooth white tiles of the ceiling. He was still dressed in full armor and he had even refused to take his muddy boots off before climbing onto the bed. The behavior could’ve been attributed to the fact that Ganondorf rarely slept, but the main reason this time was because it was another move to prove the King of Hyrule’s gullibility.
But when he was King of Hyrule himself, it wouldn’t matter, would it?
Widening his smirk, Ganondorf reached for a half-full bottle of Gerudo whiskey on a table next to his bed. He grabbed it by the neck and placed the open end to his mouth, allowing the contents to cascade down his throat. Some of the alcohol spilled onto the bed, but Ganondorf didn’t pay it any mind.
When all the whiskey had been imbibed in one gulp, Ganondorf threw the empty glass bottle out the nearby open window. Seconds later, he heard it smash on the brick walkways below. His smile quickly faded, for he had hoped it would land on one of the soldiers’ heads…
He then remembered his little dirty deed concerning the soldiers and smiled again. His imagination began to soar wildly, thinking about how he had managed to convince the soldiers – Hyrule’s Royal Guard soldiers! – that drinking Gerudo whiskey would help them relax.
"Oh, it would help them relax," he sneered in his mind, "just not in the way that they expect!"
He reminded himself that he still had to analyze the castle walls for any possible entrance points, but he then remembered that he was in no hurry. The King of Hyrule didn’t suspect a thing, and if he didn’t then no one did. To his knowledge, he thought there was no one that could stop…
No! He didn’t think, he knew! He knew there was no one out there that could stop him, Ganondorf, the King of Thieves, from getting what he wanted. No one…
Link lifted his arm to shield his eyes when Din’s Eye peaked over the horizon, but thankfully the tree branches did the task for him so his eyes managed to adjust more easily. He stretched to gain feeling in his muscles and sat up so he could perch on the tree branch. Sitting on a smaller branch above his head, Navi heard the rustling of leaves generated by Link’s movements and stretched her wings before launching herself into the air.
To their right stood Hyrule Castle, its powerful and majestic pose dwarfing the tree that the two forest folk were hiding in.
After leaving Malon, Link and Navi managed to sneak out of the inn without Master Bilton seeing them, thankfully. Outside, the streets that were once filled with people now stood completely empty of movement except for a few stray dogs scavenging for dropped morsels of food. Even the once-bogged Market Square was dormant…no, wait, that wasn’t true. Several men who appeared to be the palace guards that Malon told Link about over lunch stood at one end of the Square.
The end that led to the middle of the city, where Hyrule Castle stood.
Link knew that finding another entrance to the castle would take some time, and he was willing to bet that they were all guarded, just the same. So he decided to go around the guards, for he suspected they weren’t about to let someone like him – a so-called child – wander around at night straight towards the palace.
Luckily, because he lived in the forest, he had acquired the ability to climb rough surfaces, and he found several thin yet firm pipes running down the sides of the structures in the square. Link didn’t know what they were used for, but he found a purpose in them by using them to climb to the roofs of the buildings.
Up on the roofs, Link used his attained balance to leap from roof to roof. He was careful not to make too much noise, for he didn’t want to alarm the guards below of a little Kokiri that was finding its way past them. But the structures didn’t last forever and eventually Link found himself standing at the end of the city and the beginning of the hill where the palace stood.
No problem. Using his Kokiri agility he leapt from the top of the building he was on and landed on the ground without a scratch. The rest of the way, up the hill, appeared a breeze, and Link, followed closely by Navi, started out towards the castle that lay in the darkness somewhere on the hill’s zenith.
It was then that Link began to wonder about the strangely relaxed security. Why were the guards so easy to get by? Were there even any guards patrolling the hill? Isn’t the Princess of Destiny that important?
But Link’s wondering stopped when, close to the top of the hill, he heard a soft yet clear clanking sound heading in his direction, obviously the sound of the clothing the guards wore. Several guards were on the move…in his direction! Link quickly looked around for some form of sanctuary, and spotted a tree in the inky blackness. Without thinking, he sprinted towards it and virtually ran up its surface.
He didn’t stop until he was safe in the taller branches. Moments later, he managed to make out faint silhouettes of soldiers marching a few feet from the tree.
It wasn’t until the soldiers had completely disappeared when Navi appeared. "I guess we’ll have to wait until morning after all. Maybe we can see the patrols better then."
"I guess you’re right," Link agreed. He silently hoped, however, that the morning light wouldn’t make him easier to see.
Now here he was, staring at Hyrule Castle standing only a stone’s throw away, and he was trapped in the top of the tree where he might be seen by a passing soldier that just happened to look up. He could faintly hear the distant clanking of the patrolling guards’ armor as they prepared to make another pass near his tree. This could be the time they see him, because he had nothing except shade and luck to hide him.
"So now what?" Link asked Navi as he looked for the approaching watch.
"While you were sleeping," Navi answered with an original proud tone, "I patrolled the grounds last night. Apparently, we’re not too far from a small growth of vines that hang halfway down the outside of the castle wall. If you can get there and over without being seen, I think you have a fair chance of getting inside."
"What’s behind the wall?"
"Nothing but crates, if I remember, so you should be able to hide behind them…"
"Great!" Link exclaimed with a clap of his hands. "Now for the hard part!"
By now, the familiar clanking was so close that Link could distinguish between individual creaks and groans. From the direction the soldiers were coming in he knew he was going to be seen unless he did something to distract their attention…Link then saw small bunches of nuts hanging from the branches of the tree, and a plan quickly began to develop inside his mind…
"I don’t know how you did it, but you did!"
"I’ll take that as a compliment!" Link replied back to Navi as he stopped at the wall where the fairy had indicated the vines were located. Link, trying to catch his breath, looked up and saw several green tendrils peaking from the other side of the wall. From where he was standing, they looked farther up than halfway.
"Better get climbing before the guards get here," Navi warned, her pink light pulsing with franticness and urgency.
Link didn’t answer but instead reached up and gripped the topmost space between bricks he could reach. He then placed his feet inside other cavities and, using his strength and Kokiri nimbleness, began pulling himself up the wall. Once he had a firm grip on the wall, he reached higher on the wall and again pulled himself up. Simply put, he used the wall like a ladder.
But he soon discovered the "ladder" was tougher than the walls he had scaled earlier back in the city. The cracks between the bricks were smooth and virtually tiny, making it almost impossible for Link to get a firm grasp without first testing it. He guessed that the wall was constructed like this to prevent any intruders – such as him – from entering via climbing the wall.
Both pride and guilt surged through Link’s mind – guilt for using such criminal methods to accomplish what he had to do, pride for being able to bypass something that was apparently "impenetrable."
Luckily, Link’s rugged climb didn’t last too long, for the vines were closer than he expected. With a deep breath and a quick prayer, Link reached out for the closest creeper, grabbed it firmly, and allowed his weight to fall on the vine. His prayer was answered; the vine held him up. Thanking the Three Goddesses over and over, Link began to scale the wall with the comfort of the vines to guide him.
He reached the top in record time, but his sense of cautiousness wasn’t gone. He merely peeked over the edge of the wall for any sign of guards or other persons that might give him away. Fortunately, Navi’s report had been true: the only visible items in the area were crates…and lots of them, at that.
Smiling for the first time since being in the tree, Link lifted all his weight over the wall and jumped. Unfortunately, Link realized too late that he forgot to find a suitable place to land. Before he could correct his mistake, he found himself landing with a loud crack on one of the wooden crates. The crate chipped under the weight of the falling Kokiri before breaking apart with a resounding crash, taking Link down with it.
Link didn’t move after the fall. Instead he stared up at the blue morning sky, his eyes wide open in shock and amazement that he hadn’t broken anything. He immediately wondered if any guards had heard his fall, which would really make his day…
Navi suddenly fluttered in front of his face. "Link, are you okay?" she asked sincerely.
"Yeah, I’m…" Link answered before abruptly stopping. "No, please, no!" From somewhere nearby came a muffled yet audible sound, getting louder and louder, closer and closer…