Link was beginning to enjoy his little vacation in the Kokiri Forest. He helped the kids collect more Deku nuts and Deku seeds for the shop in the village, rebuilt the broken fence near the Twins' house, and of course, visited Saria every day, even if it was only for an hour or so. She seemed to be in better spirits than before, and she was always glad to see him.
Six days had passed when the messenger from the castle found him.
Link and the kids were playing Hide-and-go-seek in the garden when the young Hylian courier raced into the village.
"Sir Link!" the courier gasped.
Link turned and stared at the pudgy young man who was red-faced from running and was keeled over trying to catch his breath. The Hero stifled a laugh. "Are you looking for me?" he asked.
The Kokiri peered out of their hiding places at the strange man, the second Hylian they'd ever seen besides Link. Their eyes were wide.
"Yes," the messenger huffed. "Actually, the Princess is looking for you."
Link hopped over the fence and raced down the hill. "The Princess?" he demanded. "Is she in some sort of trouble?"
"Not...that I know...of, Sir Link."
"The name's Link."
The Hero rolled his eyes.
The messenger wiped his face with a dingy handkerchief he pulled out of his pocket. "There," he sighed. "That's much...better. Princess Zelda's sent messengers all over the kingdom to find you. She wants you to come back to the castle as soon as you can."
"And you don't know why?"
Link glared at him. "What kind of messenger are you, anyway?"
"I just say what I know. And that's all I know. Now, are you coming back with me or not?"
Link glanced back at the kids, who began to sulk.
"Don't go, Link," the littlest girl protested.
"Yeah," the twins agreed.
"We're having so much fun!" another exclaimed.
Link walked back up to the garden, where the Kokiri were poking their faces out from behind bushes and rocks. "I'm sorry, guys, but I've got to go."
"No!" came the cry of unison.
"It's really important," he explained. "I have to go back to the castle now." He smiled at all their sad faces. "I promise I'll come back, and then we can play as many games as you want."
"Hooray!" they shouted, gathering around him in a smothering group hug.
"Okay, okay guys," Link laughed. "Alright, will one of you tell Mido good-bye for me? I think he's still locked himself in his house until I leave."
"I'll do it," both twins offered.
"Thank you. And I'll promise I'll be back." He started walking down the hill. "Bye guys!" He turned and waved.
"Bye Link!" they replied.
"Bye, funny red-faced man!" the littlest Kokiri giggled.
The messenger looked puzzled as the Kokiri scattered energetically into their various parts of the village. Link picked up the backpack with his massive sword and Fairy Bow sticking out of it and his shield leaning against the gate. "Shall we go?"
"Friends of yours?" the messenger asked.
"More like family," Link answered, walking out of the village.
The messenger brought one horse. Although he insisted that Link ride it alone to the castle and he would simply 'catch up', Link finally convinced him to ride it. The courier had a clever plan of switching places near the castle gate so Link would be riding the horse into town and the messenger would be walking the horse. It seemed like a silly idea, but the Hero agreed to it just so they could get moving.
It was late afternoon when they left, so they were in sight of the castle a little before sunset.
"Here," the courier said, nearly rolling off the saddle.
Link shook his head and climbed on the horse. "Feel better now?" he asked.
The messenger nodded. "No really. Thank you. I couldn't have walked all that way; I would've died."
"Then it's good that I walked," Link replied. His eyes darted to the castle gate where he saw four horses and their riders galloping out of town. "Who's that?" He squinted his eyes.
"I don't know," the courier shrugged. "Probably some merchants or something."
Link squinted his eyes. It was then he noticed the unmistakable red hair of the riders. "Gerudo? Why would they be in the castle?"
Again the courier shrugged.
The horse in the lead, Link saw, was solid black. It was huge compared to the others behind it. And it looked all too familiar.
"Can't be," he whispered.
"Nevermind," Link muttered, watching the riders disappear over a hill. "Let's get to the castle before supper, eh? I don't know about you, but I'm starving."
"Yeah," the messenger agreed, tugging on the horse's reins.
They arrived at the castle not too much later. As Link rode through town, the townsfolk cheered and chanted his name, then decided to hold another celebration for his return to the castle. Link managed to keep smiling all the way through town, remembering why he ran off to the forest in the first place.
Not long after, the messenger went ahead and took the horse to the stables. Link strapped his sword and shield to his back, slung his backpack over one shoulder, and wandered into the castle. Every guard he passed nodded or greeted him, and Link recalled how many times he got thrown out of the castle as a child on his way to find the Princess by some of the same guards.
As he neared the dining hall, the warm and delicious aroma of cooked chicken, ham and dozens of other goodies welcomed him. He decided to walk straight through to the dining hall since his stomach was grumbling, and that meant going through the main hall where all the 'important people' gathered. Deciding he might meet up with Zelda there, he waltzed right in.
All conversation stopped.
Link had noticed since Ganon's defeat that although the common people declared a holiday for nearly his every breath, the higher nobility had been a lot quieter about his victory.
Now he stood at the entrance to the great hall with all the nobles in their fancy costumes drinking from gilded goblets staring at him. Some of them he knew, others he guessed were visiting from other lands.
"Uh hi," he said.
A couple of them sneered, and then conversation struck right up again. As Link strode through the hall, the nobles ignored him.
"Link?!" Zelda gasped.
Link glaced to where the voice came from. The Princess stood at the other end of the hall, dressed in a pale blue, almost white gown that clung to her shoulders, exposing all of her neck and collarbone. The sleeves were gathered just above her elbow and the remaining fabric of the sleeves draped almost to the floor. Her golden hair was swept up into a french knot with tendrils of hair hanging framing her face. She wore a simple pair of emerald teardrop earrings to match her small golden crown, and a medallion of the Triforce hung from a long golden chain around her neck.
Link's jaw dropped.
She stepped over to him, seeing that he wasn't going over to her. "Link," she said, lowering her voice. "You're gawking."
"Am not," he replied, quickly wiping the spot of drool gathering on the edge of his mouth with the back of his hand.
Zelda shook her head and grabbed his hand, nearly dragging him out of the hall into a side corridor.
"Where in Hyrule have you been all this time?" she demanded. "I thought you disappeared."
"I was just in the forest," he muttered, trying to pay attention to her and not the dress.
"Well, next time tell someone where you're going before you do," she scolded. "I nearly lost my mind trying to find you. I had messengers looking everywhere for you. You can't just run away like that, Link. You have a duty now. What if the castle was attacked? What if I needed you..." Zelda trailed off, releasing his hand and glancing out the window.
Link's face brightened. "Yes?" he urged. "And?"
The Princess turned away from him.
"Okay," Link said, clenching his fists. "Fine. Be that way. You drag me halfway across the kingdom just to scold me about running off. I'm not one of your servants, Highness, you don't have to know about where I go and where I am every hour of the day. I rushed here thinking it was something really important and it turns out you just needed to feel like a princess again by talking down to someone else. I'm grabbing a bite to eat and then I'm leaving again. See you." He stormed off in the opposite direction.
Princess Zelda spun. "Link, wait!" she cried.
"There's something I have to tell you about," she continued. "Something I didn't learn until today. About the Gerudo."
Link turned around walked back in her direction. "I saw some of them leaving the castle on my way here. What were they doing?"
Zelda glanced at the ground. "One of them is named Jocasta. She claimed to be the leader in Nabooru's place since she's still at the Spirit Temple. Link, they told me something horrible."
Link laid his hand on her shoulder, feeling her soft skin beneath his battle-callused hands. "What?"
"They came here because they need a king. Ganon was their last, and since we destroyed him, they consider us responsible for their problem. Apparently, Gerudo kings have certain rituals they have to perform for the sake of their religion and beliefs, but Ganon never finished his final one."
"And what's that?" he asked.
"They told me of an ancient city buried under the Haunted Wasteland. It houses a demon that's trapped as long as the sand keeps moving. But, once every one-hundred years on a night of a full moon, the sand in the desert stops moving for three hours. The demon can get out. The final king rite is to find a crater of sand and to strike the center of it with a kind of magic spear the Gerudo have so that the demon's distracted until the sandstorms start again."
Link lifted an eyebrow.
"Link, if this demon escapes, it will destroy all of Hyrule," Princess Zelda exclaimed. "Jocasta said that the legends tell of a magician who tried to summon it, lost control, and then ended up burying the city with moving sand to trap it. We only have three days until the night when the sand stops."
"You believe her?"
"Well," Link explained, "if Jocasta is the Gerudo I saw riding Ganondorf's black war stallion, I'm not sure all of this sounds right."
Zelda pulled back from him. "What do you mean?" she demanded. "How can we not believe her? How can we just let a demon enter our world and destroy it? Even if it isn't true, that isn't the sort of thing you could risk an entire kingdom on unless you know for sure, Link. There's too many lives at stake."
Link sighed. "Look, I'll go to the fortress and check out the desert. I'll even go talk to Nabooru about it. Something's just not...right about all this."
"You're risking the kingdom on a black horse, Link," Zelda replied. "That's not a wager I'm willing to bet on. I'm sorry."
Link put both hands on her shoulders. "I understand. But just trust me on this one. I'll do a little research tomorrow, come back to the castle, tell you what I found out, and then we'll decide what to do. Are the Gerudo supposed to come back?"
"In a couple of days," Zelda answered.
"Good. Then they won't know about it."
"Except you're going to the fortress."
"Nah," Link retorted. "I'll just go straight to Nabooru. It's a better idea. She'll set the record straight and then this whole mess will be over."
Princess Zelda stared at the floor. "Link," she sighed. "About what I said earlier, I'm sorry. I know better than to treat you like that. You are your own person." She moved closer to him and hugged him. "I'm really sorry."
Link sighed, holding her close for the few seconds he could. "It's okay. I forgive you, Zelda."
At the sound of her name, the Princess sighed deeply and held him tighter until one of the guard entered the hall proclaiming it was dinner time. Zelda quickly pulled away from Link and disappeared down the hall before the Hero had a chance to catch up.
Back to Story Menu