The sun sank huge and bloody over the stretching plains of Hyrule, staining the green grass with a pulsating crimson hue. It was a reflection of the country's current state, torn apart by civil war. Innocent blood seeped out of every pore in the land, tainted every lake and spring. These vivid metaphors ran through Tarra's mind with disturbing lightheartedness.
Tarra swung her small, tanned legs. She was perched cheerfully on the skeletal frame of a crude cabin under construction, keeping her balance perfectly despite the ferocious west wind that tried to topple her. Tara's sharp brown eyes, which were already developing the trademark Gerudo slyness, peered across the grasslands and watched every movement of the advancing enemy. A quick scan told Tarra that the Gerudo were sadly outnumbered. They would almost certainly have to surrender their home. Still, the battle would be spectacular. That was definitely something to look forward to.
At the right moment, Tarra slid down from her roost and pounded across the trampled grass of Kakariko village, weaving between the billowing tents and makeshift cabins. "They're coming, everyone!"
The childish voice blared across the village with the richness and significance of a brass battle tune. Dark Gerudo heads poked out of every tent flap and creaky cottage door. Eyes shimmered with bloodlust and a murmur of voices ran into each other and mingled with the hiss of metal being sharpened. Very soon, the wicked blades of dozens of Gerudo halberds caught the dying sunlight.
Ten year old Tarra was bristling with excitement. Battle always stirred her blood. Tarra's proud Gerudo mother always claimed that her daughter's love for danger came from her father, a nameless devil-may-care Hylian warrior. Although she was still too young to join the fight, Tarra had another mission, a special obligation to protect her friend, Dusk. With her ornate schimar sheath slapping against her right thigh, Tarra skipped between the hordes of battle ready Gerudos to reach the tiny weather-beaten cabin at the very back of the village. Inside she found Dusk humming a lullaby to her fretful baby boy. The dark haired child, not even five days old, could smell the ugly pre-battle tenseness brewing within the stale air of the camp.
Tarra tossed her flaming head with a pompous air. "They're on their way, Dusk."
The young Hylian woman looked up at Tarra with a silent and expressionless 'thank you' before she let a weary sigh shudder through her and turned her attention back to her baby. Hylians were not an uncommon sight on the Gerudo grounds. Due to the fact that only one male Gerudo was born every 100 years, the warrior women would often lure Hylian men into the camp as mates (this, added to their thieving lifestyles, equaled a rather sad reputation for the Gerudos). Dusk, however, had simply stumbled into Kakariko village confused and feverish after receiving the shocking news that her husband had been killed in the pointless war that raged across Hyrule. The Gerudos, seeing the bulky living baggage that Dusk carried on her belly, had agreed to let the pregnant Hylian stay.
"So who's attacking us this time?" Dusk asked as she handed the baby to Tarra. The Hylian could see the message in the little girl's eyes that begged to be allowed to hold the tiny bundle.
"Sheikahs," Tarra winced as the baby, fascinated with her blunt Gerudo ears, yanked on them and giggled. "I'm pretty sure they want their village back. Impa's leading them. And to tell you the truth, we're outnumbered. It might be best for me to lead you out of Kakariko...I don't want you or the baby to get hurt during the fighting."
"Sure, whatever you think is best."
With that settled, Tarra took a minute to spin the baby in wide circles around the cabin. "Ooh, he's so ADORABLE," she giggled shrilly. "I bet that when he gets older he'll have girls chasing him down all over the place."
Despite the grim situation that was spawning on the other side of the door, Dusk had to laugh. "Yes, I could see that happening. By the way, did I tell you that I finally picked out a name for him?"
"No, you didn't. What did you decide on?"
For once in her long lifetime, Saria was too preoccupied to notice the still beauty in the dark, humid night air of the Kokiri Forest. The right side of her childish face, forever untouched by time's cruel and distorting claws, was slumped against a small elfin fist. She couldn't sleep that night. Like the nonstop whir of the crickets in the long grasses, something was stirring. On the other side of the protective foliage that enclosed the Kokiri in their pen of innocence, terrible things were happening to the rest of Hyrule. Saria just knew it. And she seemed to be the only Kokiri in the village who could sense the faraway uproar.
Mido stumbled into sight just then, derailing Saria's train of thought completely. The self-proclaimed leader of the Kokiris was an obnoxious brute of a boy who had been trying for years to impress Saria and win her unconditional friendship. His methods of courtship ranged from attempting to teach his guardian fairy to roll over and play dead to cutting Saria's grass time and time again. Nothing had worked; Saria just didn't have the heart to admit to Mido that his very presence always made her want to throw up.
Mido was extremely pleased to see that Saria shared his nighthawk habits. "Hi Saria!"
"Hey," Saria grimaced. Her mind fumbled with possible excuses to suddenly leave.
Mido trotted up to Saria's doorstep and parked his lanky frame next to her. "Mind if I sit here?"
In the nick of time, Saria latched onto an alibi. "Uh, gee, sorry Mido...I was just getting ready to leave."
"Oh." Mido's eternally youthful face fell. "You were?"
"Yeah...I'm going to talk to the Deku tree for a while." The Kokiri girl got to her feet.
"Can I come too?"
A shot of cold panic rose in Saria's throat as she was forced to think fast once again. "Uhm, ah, I guess you can," she stumbled, "but I was...I was REALLY hoping that you'd cut my grass for me again."
"Well sure...but Riki just cut it--er, I mean, I--just cut it this afternoon."
"It needs it again," Saria called over her shoulder as she sprinted off in the direction of the hallowed Deku tree, "it's the growing season!"
Mido sighed and shrugged as he watched the Kokiri girl fade into a black outline in the heavy blanket of forest mist. Shot down again. The bully shuffled off to wake up Riki and order him to start cutting Saria's grass.
Sheikah. The Shadow Folk. Dusk had heard many legends about their quietly elusive manner of living, and for a long time she had believed those stories. The battle in Kakariko village that night, however, dispelled every kind and gentle Sheikah myth that Dusk had been told.
The darkness was a smothering black blanket. Due to the thick air, Dusk couldn't make out the features of the attacking Sheikah very well. They were all identical, towering shadows, each one equipped with a burning pair of red hot eyes that branded the souls of their enemies. With deadly grace, they swooped down on the Gerudos like shapeless, silent beasts. Tarra had been right; the thieves were terribly outnumbered.
Tarra! Where was Tarra? Dusk looked around frantically. In the confusion, the young Gerudo girl had been torn away from her. All Dusk could see around her were flaming optics that glittered with savage triumph. The Gerudo were losing badly, and Dusk was going to have to find her own way to safety. The out of place Hylian murmured soothingly to her baby as she dashed to the village entrance. This was completely unnecessary; the sea of battle din was a heavenly orchestra to little Link, and he was chuckling and clapping along like an enthused music lover. If Dusk didn't know any better, she'd swear that her baby boy wanted to join the fight.
Something red hot suddenly stung Dusk severely at the back of her leg, just below her calf. Crying out, she collapsed to the ground, but remembered just in time not to drop her son. Sobbing with panic, Dusk coiled over her leg like a wounded animal. Link, disturbed by his mother's cries, joined in with the wailing. The raven-feathered shaft of a Sheikah arrow protruded out of Dusk's bloodied leg. There was no hope for escape now.
The Angel of Death galloped towards the fallen figure, blade drawn, ready to finish off the wounded thief. But the minute it saw the trembling woman in front of it, it reared and put its sword back to bed. "You're a Hylian!"
Although the Sheikah was bending right over her, pain blurred Dusk's vision. From the voice, however, Dusk could tell that her attacker was female. She was trembling too badly to even think of a wisecrack counterattack to the warrior's stunned observation.
That didn't stop the Sheikah from firing off questions. "Who are you, and what are you doing HERE of all places?"
Blood loss and fatigue poured a numbing mixture into Dusk's head. She began to slip away. With her last strength, she hugged her baby close to her. Link howled in protest to being constricted. The Sheikah widened her eyes and swore as she spied the little boy for the first time.
"You have a baby with you, too! I don't believe it. I've got to get you two out of here."
Dusk answered her attacker with a silent voice as the Sheikah put her fingers in her mouth and whistled shrilly. The sound carried over the angry clash of metal and summoned another Sheikah, a spry male who bounded up to his commander and gave an alien salute.
The Sheikah woman frowned and jabbed a finger at the fallen Dusk and her baby. "These two innocents were hurt during the fighting, Trey. I'm taking them to safety. You're in command until I get back."
Trey renewed his salute. "As you wish, Impa."
"Ah...so THIS is what you fairies do once your 'children' have been sent off to bed," Saria grinned knowingly as she gazed around at the knots of shimmering, gossipy fairies that were collected around the grand Deku tree.
The glowing blue fleck that was Navi shrugged her wings. "Hey, we need a social life too y'know!" Saria picked up on the sliver of guilt that was wedged in the fairy's proclamation and laughed.
"Don't worry Navi, I understand completely. You guys would definitely need to unwind after a day of chasing after us." Saria lowered her voice. "I'll bet that Mido's fairy is just about ready to drown herself."
"You don't know the half of it," Navi began when all of a sudden she sensed a dramatic air pressure change. The rest of the fairies sensed it too and conversations were killed in mid sentence. There was a non-Kokirian presence among them, the presence of a being whose very aura commanded respect. Saria, who was not quite as sensitive as her fairy friends, could not understand why their busy murmurs had suddenly crashed into eerie silence.
Her answer came very soon. Some of the dark mist near the base of the Deku tree slowly began to collect itself and swirl like a midair whirlpool. The haze stretched and extended impossibly before it finally settled and solidified into the form of a Sheikah warrior woman. She was supporting a slumped over woman with one strong arm and holding a squalling baby with the other. A stunned silence hung in the air as the fairies and the Kokiri all gaped at the strangers. The Sheikah did some staring of her own as she swept over the crowd.
"You will take care of this woman and baby," she announced at last. It wasn't a question. The warrior gently set her packages on the dew-soaked grass before vanishing without a trace. The recipients all exhaled at once as if on signal.
"Well, I'm glad that she dumped such a nice task on us," Navi snorted, her voice twisted with sarcasm. "Up to now, I didn't know WHAT I was going to do with myself!"
Saria was pouring her attention over the wounded woman. Her heartbeat was little more than a faint flutter; she was nearly gone. One of the fairies observed Saria's futile efforts.
"Forget it dear. There's no helping her."
Saria sat back on her heels and frowned at the corpse before her. She was a Kokiri and didn't quite understand the concept of death. She turned from the woman and instead picked up the baby flailing on the grass, hugging him close to her. A happy warmth settled over her as the baby immediately calmed down. Saria turned around to beam at the fairies collected around her, and received a shock when they all scattered frantically away from her like rabbits in the presence of a hawk.
"What's with you guys?" The Kokiri seethed, very unlike her cheerful nature.
"Sorry dear," one of the floating specks called from afar, "we really don't mean to run away from you. It's just that...well...you're holding a Hylian!"
Saria looked down at the baby smiling back up at her. She was hooked. "So what if I am?"
"Hylians are Outsiders," one fairy sniffed. "Outsiders are not pure like everyone in the Kokiri forest. They're immoral."
"That's right," another fairy chimed in. "Outsiders are such beastly creatures. Especially the Hylians."
All the fairies present took the cue to throw in some nasty adjectives of their own to describe the horrors of Hylians.
"Let's not forget crude."
"I said that one already."
"Oops. Well, it's worth repeating."
"Has anyone mentioned 'driven by pride' yet? That's a good one."
The fairies were so busy with their sport that they didn't notice Saria storm out of the clearing with the baby.
A grey dawn crept up to Saria's doorstep and found her there, down in the mouth. She was still clinging to the child, and she was very much alone. It was still too early for any of the other Kokiri to be awake, and none of the forest fairies would come near her as long as she was holding the accursed "Hylian offspring." Even her own guardian was nowhere to be found.
The mysterious baby had just riled himself from a short nap. He was hungry and restless and was probably in need of a change. Saria was miserable, torn between two forces. She just couldn't abandon the boy, but as long as she had him, she was an outcast.
A soft light fell to the left of the woebegone Kokiri. Startled, she looked up to see Navi floating above her.
Saria blinked in surprise. "Navi?" she ventured. "You'll actually talk to me even though I have this little fellow with me?"
"Don't worry about me," Navi assured her. "The other fairies are just bound by a stupid superstition. There is much more to that child than you may think. After you ran out of the clearing, the Deku Tree told me and me alone that the boy you have there is named 'Link'...and to make things even more exciting, he's a 'Child of Destiny.'"
"He will change the future of Hyrule," Navi explained patiently. "You have a bit more depth than the other Kokiris...I'm sure that you're able to sense the civil wars that have been going on outside the forest?"
Saria nodded. "I seem to be the only one, aren't I?"
"Most likely. Anyway, this boy, once grown up, will have the ability to put the troubles in Hyrule to ease. That's all the Deku Tree would tell me...but he also wants to give you a special task if you're up to it."
Saria's heart started to bounce against her ribs. "A task?" she squeaked. "From the Deku Tree?" A flaming burst of pride and a icy slick of terror consumed her at the same time. Being assigned a task from the Deku Tree himself was a huge honour, but if Saria screwed it up...
"What does he want me to do?"
Navi eased herself down to the level of Saria's pointed ear. "He wants you to raise Link until he's old enough to leave the forest and start his adventure."
Stunned, Saria looked down at the young Hylian who promptly grabbed a dangling lock of her seafoam green hair and yanked as hard as he possibly could. Her thoughts churned. She was supposed to raise a baby?! That was a project that would take more than one afternoon. But if the Deku Tree had requested it of her...
"I'll do it!"
"Great!" Navi flew in the shape of a glowing halo around Saria's head. "The other fairies aren't going to be much help, I'm afraid...but I'll do what I can to ease the burden." Seriousness stole Navi's exuberance. "But listen, Saria. There's little doubt that you're going to become attached to that baby. You must understand that when the time comes for Link to leave, you have to let him go. Do you think you'll be strong enough to do it?"
"I guess I'll have to be," Saria said laughingly as she pried the little Hylian's paw out of her hair. "For now though, Link has a long road ahead of him. For one thing, he's an outcast in this forest, so it might take a very long time for the others to accept him. But he'll always be able to trust me." Saria tightened Link's little blanket to protect him from the morning chill. As she fussed over her new pet, she idly wondered if Link would grow up to like ocarina music.
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