He slowly faded into consciousness, although he had no idea why he’d been asleep in the first place. He had that strange disconnected feeling–-not like sleep–-more like suddenly skipping some chunk of time. It was the oddest feeling. His mind was hazy and he couldn’t quite remember what he was doing when he went unconscious. As his senses slowly came back, he was able to make some sense of his surroundings. It was definitely nighttime, and it was cold–far too cold for late spring. His vision cleared and he realized that he was outside in the middle of the night, leaning against the wall of a building in some alley. It looked like every other alley he’d ever seen, so he had no idea which town he was actually in.
Link finally stood up to find some sign of where he was. It was far colder than he’d originally thought, and there was even a light dusting of snow on the ground–-definitely not spring weather. When he instinctively folded his arms over his chest to conserve warmth, he realized that his clothes were in rather shabby condition. His tunic and pants were torn and full of holes, and his favorite hat was missing. He took stock of his situation: he’d woken up and he didn’t remember going to sleep or passing out; it was snowing, which didn’t usually happen in late spring; and his clothes were torn up as if he had gotten into a fight. Something was definitely amiss.
Link walked out of the alley and down one of the town’s side streets, looking for something familiar. He was relieved when he saw the familiar square of Hyrule Castle Town. It was virtually deserted; even the usual stray dogs were missing, probably huddled in a warm corner somewhere. It didn’t take much thinking to decide that going to the castle was the wisest choice. Perhaps someone there could explain what was going on.
He walked down the path to the castle, thankful that the snow was less than an inch deep. Unconsciously he rubbed his hands over his arms to keep warm; he wasn’t shivering yet, but he knew he would be soon. At least it’s not windy, he thought. He saw the two guards at the gate, who were chatting leisurely, suddenly stand at attention when they saw him approach. One of the guards pointed to Link and they both laughed; he knew it was his expense, but he couldn’t hear them.
They stopped laughing when he arrived, and gave him stern looks. “Sorry, we don’t take in vagrants,” said one guard.
“Yeah, you should find a nice box to sleep in,” said the other guard. They both laughed at Link, but he definitely didn’t find it amusing.
“I’m not a bum,” he said through clenched teeth. “I have free access to the castle any time. Let me in.”
The first guard fought back a chuckle; this bum’s delusions were far greater than most he encountered. “Get lost kid. I don’t know what world you’re from, but we don’t let crazy teenagers wearing tattered rags into the castle.”
“I’m not some crazy teenager,” Link insisted, his patience growing thin. “My title is Sir Link of the Kokiri, and I’m personal friends with Zelda. I’m her boyfriend.”
Both guards laughed raucously. “Sure, you’re a knight,” said the second guard sarcastically. “A Kokiri, huh? You look a little big to be one of them. Where’s your stupid fairy friend? Did she flutter too close to the fireplace?”
“You know what? Go find Zelda and ask her yourself.”
“I don’t think so,” said the first guard. “And it’s ‘Her Royal Highness, Princess Zelda ’ to you. Show some respect.”
“Try showing me some respect,” Link shot back angrily. “I’m sure I’ve done more in the last six years than both of you combined. I got the Star of Nayru at twelve. Did you two just get hired or something? That would explain your ignorance.”
“You’re walking on thin ice, kid,” warned the first guard.
“For your information, I’ve had this post for seven years,” said the second guard. “And I’ve been in the royal guard for fifteen. He’s been at this post for five years, in the guard for ten.”
Link sighed in frustration. “I really don’t care how long you’ve been here. The point is that it’s freezing cold out here, and I have no idea what is going on. I woke up in the alley just a few minutes ago. Some kind of foul play is involved. And Zelda would be extremely upset if she found out you two boneheads were out here harassing me.”
“We’re supposed to believe that some random kid, who we’ve never seen before, is some kind of knight?” said the second guard incredulously. “Think of it from our perspective. We don’t know you; you have no means of identifying yourself, and you show up out of nowhere demanding entrance. What would you do?”
“Listen, I see your point,” Link admitted. “All you have to do is ask Zelda, her father, Impa, or any of the other guards that know me.” Link couldn’t understand why these men had never heard of him. He knew most of the castle guards by name, and the ones he didn’t know personally still knew who he was. He’d earned quite a reputation in the castle–-a good reputation–-and he assumed that the guards all knew who he was. The king had given him a pass to show to anyone who didn’t know him. He really wished he had that pass right now.
“I’m not going to bother anyone important to indulge your little fantasy,” said the second guard. “So shoo.”
“It’s not a damn fantasy, and I’m not a bum!” Link growled.
“Sure, you look really well off to me,” said the first guard. “If you want someone to take you seriously, come back in the morning and sign the register to request an audience with the princess. Your request will be approved or denied within a week, and you can schedule an audience in a couple months.”
“It’s freezing cold out here!” Link said angrily, fed up with the guards’ apathetic attitudes. “All my money is gone, my home is miles away, and I don’t even have a coat. Do you want me to freeze in a gutter somewhere? If one of you could actually do something sensible and go inside and ask somebody, you would see that this is nothing but a misunderstanding. Let me in, or I’ll break in.”
Two more guards came to see what the commotion was and were standing ready to repel any kind of attack Link could muster. The first guard stood firm and scowled. “Turn around and leave right now, or you’ll be arrested. Just walk away, I don’t want to have to hurt you.”
Link considered his options. He could walk away and try to find shelter, but he doubted that anyone would take him in, considering how he looked. Pretending to walk away then sneaking into the castle wouldn’t work; the full moon and fresh coat of snow would make escaping detection nearly impossible. Fighting them would be out of the question. He couldn’t bring himself to harm them for doing what they thought was right. His only choice was to agitate them into arresting him. They would handle him roughly, but wouldn’t really injure him unless he posed a threat. And he knew that the guards only considered him a minor nuisance, not a threat.
“Fine, go ahead and arrest me you incompetent boars,” he shouted loud enough for half the town to hear. “You’ll be sorry when Zelda finds out what you did.” The two guards at the gate had had enough and moved forward to grab him. Link moved to the side to dodge them. One of the guards grabbed his left arm, but he twisted his body and caused the man to trip and fall. This angered the guards enough to make them shove him roughly to the ground. Link fell face first, just barely avoiding smashing his nose. One guard put his foot on Link’s back, while the other sat on his legs and secured his wrists tightly with some rope. Link purposely squirmed and struggled as they hauled him to his feet and shoved him through the now open gate.
“Quiet down or we’ll make you quiet,” the guard threatened vaguely.
Link only took this as encouragement to agitate them further. He struggled more forcefully and let his legs go limp so they had to hold him upright and drag him. As they got closer to the castle, Link shouted even louder. “Go ahead, throw me in the dungeon you pigs. I feel sorry for you because that’s where you’ll end up when the king finds out what you did to me. You’ll end up shoveling the crap from the princess’s horse!”
“Will you shut up!” one guard yelled, smacking Link on the side of the head with the back of his hand. The blow nearly sent him tumbling to the ground, but he regained his balance. Link felt a sharp pain and a warm liquid flowing down his cheek. The decorative engravings on the guard’s gauntlet had cut Link just above the temple, and it was now bleeding freely.
Link definitely didn’t expect the guards to be this rough, and that angered him for real. “You prick!” Link shouted. “What the hell was that for? You’re really going to get in trouble now. Zelda will be furious; she’ll skin you alive.”
“Shut your mouth, or I’ll hit you again,” the guard warned. “And next time you won’t wake up for a while.”
Link gave him a poisonous glare. Even though he was now bleeding and even angrier, he still had to stick to his plan. The guards were dragging him to on of the castle’s side entrances, the one that led to the holding cells. When they entered, Link took his last chance to get someone’s attention before they threw him in a cold cell for the night. “Hey! Leave me alone! The princess is going to go crazy when she sees this, and Impa will strip you of your rank.”
A couple servants and government officials noticed the commotion, but didn’t pay it any mind. It wasn’t uncommon for a guard to drag in a raucous troublemaker. Link was quite sure that Impa was awake at this hour and inside her office, which was at the opposite end of the hallway from the jail entrance. He only hoped she had her door open and could hear him. “Hey Impa! Come see what these poor excuses for guards did! I want my lawyer!”
One guard put his hand over Link’s mouth to shut him up. Link contemplated biting the man’s hand in retaliation for his head, but decided not to. To Link’s relief, he saw Impa storm down the hallway to see what all the noise was about. “What in the name of the goddesses is going on here?” she demanded to know.
“This ragamuffin was causing trouble outside the gate,” explained the guard that struck him. “We warned that we would arrest him, but he kept on making a fool of himself. So were taking him in to sleep off whatever liquor he’s on.”
Impa was about to let them drag him off into the jail cell, until she took a closer look at the troublemaker. “Wait just a minute,” she ordered, and the men did their best to stand at attention while restraining Link. Impa stared at him for a minute, not sure if he was real or she was just seeing things. She couldn’t believe her eyes; this couldn’t possibly be the real Link. “Link?” she asked quietly, afraid that he just looked like the young man she remembered.
“Thank the goddesses,” Link said, sighing in relief and relaxing a little. “These boneheads wouldn’t even let me talk to you. I had to make a huge fuss just to get your attention.”
“What happened to your head?”
“This guy got a little carried away,” Link replied, motioning to the guard that struck him. “It’s just a scratch, really.”
“Release him immediately,” she ordered.
The guards looked dumbfounded. “But ma’am, he was...”
“Don’t question me! Release him!” The guards let go of Link and cut the rope that was binding his wrists. He rubbed his wrists, trying to get the feeling back. He wiped at the cut on his head, but only succeeded in smearing the blood further. “Why did you injure him?” she demanded.
“He was resisting arrest,” replied the guard that hit Link.
Impa glowered. “You do not strike a prisoner unless he injures you first, or he puts your life in mortal danger. Both of you return to your posts. Tomorrow morning you will report to the stables. Your job for the next two months will be cleaning up after the horses. Furthermore, you will treat this man with respect due to a knight and a personal friend of the royal family.” The guards nodded that they understood. “Dismissed.”
After the guards left, Impa returned to a more relaxed pose and looked back to Link. He stood there, wondering if she was going to say something, or if he should talk first. As he was about to open his mouth, Impa smiled and embraced him tightly. Link felt extremely awkward that she was hugging him, something she never done before, but he decided to go along with it. “Um, Impa...are you drunk?”
She released him and gave him a weird look. “I’m not drunk. I just can’t believe what I’m seeing.”
“What’s going on?” Link asked, confused. “I thought I knew all the guards here, but I’ve never seen those guys before.”
“We’ll talk in a minute. Come with me to the doctor’s office so she can patch you up.” Link shrugged his shoulders and followed, figuring that she’d explain her odd behavior eventually. They entered the doctor’s office and Link sat on the examination table, sighing at Impa’s overreaction to his minor wound.
The doctor heard them enter and called from the other room, “I’ll be right there.” The doctor, a middle-aged woman with short, gray-streaked hair, walked into the main office and gasped at what she saw. There was a gash on the side of Link’s head above the temple, and it was still oozing blood. The blood had slid down the side of his head all the way to his shoulder, soaking into his hair and smearing everything. “Oh, you poor thing,” the doctor cooed, grabbing a couple towels and some soap, water, and a blanket. “You’re shivering, you must be freezing.” She put the blanket around his shoulders and he sighed with relief. “Don’t tell me you were outside wearing those clothes.” He nodded. “You young men always think you’re invincible. Just wait until you catch your death of colds. Now, I’ll get your little cut fixed right up.” She quickly and efficiently wiped the blood from his head, and dipped a towel in warm soapy water to clean the actual wound. “How did this happen?”
“A guard got a little too rough trying to arrest me.”
The doctor gave a strange look, wondering if this young man was a dangerous criminal. “Don’t worry, he’s not a criminal. They just mistook him for someone else,” Impa assured her.
“Oh, I see,” the doctor said, nodding. “Some of those men are animals.” Link winced when she scrubbed the wound. “Sorry baby, this’ll only be a second.” Link felt silly that this woman was babying him, but he dealt with it. “This shouldn’t need a bandage; it’s not that bad of a cut. Just be careful and don’t irritate it, or it’ll come open again.”
“Thank you,” Link said.
“Is there anything else you need?” the doctor asked. Link shook his head. “Okay, take care.”
Impa escorted Link out of the doctor’s office and into her own private office. She motioned for him to sit at the chair in front of her desk, and she took her own seat behind the desk. Her position of authority was obvious, and Link probably would’ve felt intimidated if he didn’t know her personally. She leaned forward and stared him straight in the eyes. “So tell me, is it really you?”
Link looked bewildered. “Yeah, last time I checked,” he joked. He chuckled, and then went silent when he saw that she wasn’t amused. “Of course it’s me, who else would I be?” This was beginning to feel like an interrogation, and he had no idea why she would do that.
“What is your name?”
Link decided to play along with whatever game she was up to. “My name is Link.”
“Is that your real name, or are you just pretending to be him?”
“Of course that’s me real name. You know me, Zelda knows me, her father knows me. I don’t understand what’s wrong. Has someone been impersonating me or something?”
“Link, how old are you?”
“I’m sixteen. You know that.”
“Tell me what happened to you just now,” she asked, curious as to how and why Link ended up here.
“I was trying to get into the castle and those guards started hassling me. I told them who I was and they claimed they never heard of me. I thought I knew most of the guards here, or at least they knew who I was. They said they’d been working that post for years, but I’ve never seen them before.”
“No, what happened before you came to the guards?” Impa clarified. “Where have you been?”
“That’s the weird part. I just woke up. I was in an alley in the town. I have no idea how I got there. And I don’t know why it’s snowing outside, it’s almost summer.”
“What’s the last thing you remember before you woke up in the town?”
Link thought hard, trying to remember the last moment before he lost consciousness. His memory was hazy and indistinct, like there was a huge blank in his head. The feeling was very disorienting and it made him nervous. “I don’t know....” His brow furrowed in concentration. “Let me think.... It was late morning, and I was coming to the castle to visit Zelda. She wanted to have lunch together. When I was walking through the town, I saw a vendor selling fresh flowers. I thought they looked really nice, so I bought some. I know it’s a little unoriginal to get a girl flowers, but Zelda always liked them.” He scanned his memory for something else, but came up blank. “That’s it. I paid the lady, and she told me to have a nice day.”
“That’s it?” Impa asked.
“Yeah,” he replied. “The next thing I knew, I’m freezing in an alley in the middle of the night.”
“You don’t remember anyone attacking you? Or anything at all unusual, no matter how small?”
“No I don’t remember!” Link shouted, growing sick of this bizarre treatment. “What did I do wrong? If you’re going to charge me with a crime, then do it. I think I would’ve been better off in the dungeon.”
Impa got up and went to Link’s side, putting her hand on his shoulder to calm him down. “Relax, Link. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re not being charged with a crime.”
“So why are you interrogating me?” he demanded irritably. “And why won’t you explain what’s going on? Don’t you think I’m a little confused too? I seem to have passed out for no explainable reason, I woke up in an alley and it’s snowing outside, and nobody seems to know who I am!”
“I’ll explain exactly what the problem is: you’d gone missing, and we had no idea what happened to you. You never showed up that day to have lunch with Zelda.”
“So is that why it’s snowing outside? Was I out cold through the whole summer and fall?”
Impa shook her head solemnly. “No. Actually, it’s been considerably longer than that. You’ve been missing for about ten and a half years.”
Link’s eyes grew wide, and he gave a look of disbelief. “This is a joke, right? Everybody’s playing some huge joke on me.”
“I wish it was a joke, but it’s not. I wouldn’t joke about something like this.” Link sat there silently, contemplating this strange new development. How could he possibly have vanished for ten years? He certainly didn’t feel ten years older.
“This can’t be real,” said Link. “I must be dreaming.”
“No dream,” Impa stated flatly. “How do you think I feel? You were missing, and we launched an all-out manhunt to find you. No one ever found any sign of you, except for your hat. We had no leads, no witnesses who saw anything happen to you. You were just gone.”
Her explanation was interrupted when the king wandered into her office. “Impa, what’s this I heard about some kid...” He saw Link from behind, but didn’t see his face so he didn’t realize who he was. “Is this the kid?”
“Yeah, that would be me,” Link sighed. “The world has gone crazy on me.”
The king stopped dead in his tracks when he heard Link’s familiar voice. “Link? Is that you?”
He walked forward and stood next to the chair to get a better look at Link. “Dear goddesses, it is you.” In another surprise move, the king leaned over and gave him a quick hug. “I can’t believe it, you’re really alive. Do you have any idea how much we’ve missed you?”
“Notice anything weird about him?” Impa asked. The king looked Link over and shrugged his shoulders. “He’s been gone for ten years, yet he hasn’t seemed to age at all. Tell me, does he look twenty-six to you?”
“I certainly don’t feel twenty-six,” Link commented. “I honestly don’t remember anything. I didn’t know I was missing.”
Impa told the king everything she’d learned so far, how Link seemed to appear out of nowhere with no memory of how he’d gotten there or where he’d been. “So basically, one mystery has been solved, and another has taken its place,” the king said.
“Are you going to interrogate me some more, or can I try to put my life back together?” Link asked with obvious annoyance in his voice.
“We don’t mean to make you uncomfortable,” Impa said in a soothing voice. “But you have to understand it from our perspective. You’ve been missing without a trace, and suddenly you show up without aging. That’s a little suspicious.”
“How do you think I feel?” Link countered. “I’m missing a huge chunk of my life. The entire world has changed around me. I know you think I could be some impostor, and I don’t blame you. What do you want me to do to convince you? Obviously I can tell you things that only the real me would know.”
“Give us an example,” said the king.
“Where should I start?” Link racked his brain trying to think of something private that not only he would know, but Impa or the king would know as well. “Okay, Impa. On your fifteenth birthday you got drunk in some Sheikah tradition and woke up on the roof of your house.”
The king gave her an odd look and started laughing. Impa’s cheeks reddened slightly, and that only made him laugh louder. “You actually did that? No way, I don’t believe it.”
Impa put her head on her desk and sighed. She had no idea telling that little story would come back to bite her. She always had the aura of a wise, no-nonsense soldier, especially to those who respected her. “Yes, it’s true,” Impa admitted. “I did do that.”
“Well, that’s one example,” the king said, fighting back a chuckle. “That’s almost enough to convince me.”
Link thought hard again, but couldn’t come up with anything off the top of his head. “I don’t know. I never expected a situation like this.” He went silent for a minute, the impact of his whole situation finally hitting him. “What about Zelda? If anyone would know, it would be her.”
“I still feel uncomfortable about that,” said the king. “I don’t know if you should see her until we know more about you.”
“But Zelda would know!” Link insisted. “How could you not trust me with her! I’ve saved her life several times, I’ve always protected her and I love her more than anything. She has to be heartbroken over this, right? I don’t know what I’d do if she disappeared. She should at least know that I’m here for her now.” Then a very disturbing thought ran through his head, and he looked extremely worried. “Wait...are you holding me back because she doesn’t want to see me? Please don’t tell me that she’s found some other man, and is married with kids. My whole world has gone to shit, and I don’t want the one woman I love to have forgotten about me.”
Link was on the verge of tears, and the king put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Calm down, son. She hasn’t forgotten about you. It’s quite the opposite. She’s missed you terribly. I’ve never seen her so depressed, ever. I know she would never leave you for anyone or anything. She’s been stricken with you since they day you met. That kind of love never goes away. She still talks about you all time; she always wonders what you would do in a certain situation, or how you would feel about something. She misses you so much that she sleeps with your hat.”
“How has she been?” Link asked sadly.
“She has her ups and downs,” the king replied. “But they’re mostly down. She’s coped in different ways. For at least a year, she personally led expeditions to find you. After we stopped the official searches, she still occasionally would go out on her own investigations. Then she stopped looking, but never gave up hope that you would come back.
“She tried at lot of things to take her mind off you. She liked to go on benders when she was younger, she’d stay drunk for days at a time. When I cut off her access to liquor, she would sneak out of the castle and buy it from people. It took some time, but we finally helped her break that habit. Now she cycles between endless work and studying, and total apathy. She doesn’t have that same spark she used to have. She doesn’t seem to really care about anything, especially herself. She skips meals all the time, would never get a good night’s sleep... It’s horrible. She either loses her temper at the drop of a hat, or lets people walk all over her. Right now she’s depressed and doesn’t care.”
Link listened to the story with a heavy heart, imagining all the pain she’d gone through because of him. Then Link had a horrible thought. “She didn’t try to...to hurt herself did she? Because...she promised me she wouldn’t. She promised me.”
“Oh, Link, no. She never tried to kill herself,” the king assured him. “She mentioned that promise she made to you every time she felt like she couldn’t take it anymore.”
“How is she now?” Link asked.
“She’s in one of her depressed cycles,” replied Impa. “She hasn’t gotten out of bed all day.”
“I want to see her,” Link demanded. “I want her to know that I’m here.” Impa and the king both looked at each other, silently debating if they should let Link see Zelda. Their gut feelings said to trust him, but they didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. “Please,” Link begged. “Just let me see her. You can watch me.”
The king finally decided to grant Link’s wish. “All right Link, I’ll let you see her. I’ll go get Zelda, and Impa will get you some clean clothes.” Link thanked him, and he left to fetch Zelda.
“I think you are who you say you are,” Impa said. “I don’t think an impostor could ever accurately pretend to be you. And Zelda will be the final proof. She would know.”
“Thanks for your confidence,” Link said sincerely.
“I’ll go get you some clothes.”
The king walked slowly to Zelda’s room, all the while thinking of how he should break the news to her. He didn’t want to overexcite her, but he didn’t want to make it seem unimportant either. When he reached Zelda’s door he opened it and stepped inside, looking around to see if she was up and about. As he suspected, Zelda was in bed, evident by the lump underneath the blankets. The lump moved and Zelda stuck her head out. “It’s customary to knock before entering someone’s private room,” Zelda muttered. “Have you come to force food down my throat again? I promise I’ll eat something in the morning.”
“No, this isn’t about food,” her father replied, used to her attitude. “Actually, this isn’t even about you.”
Zelda groaned. “What, is it a funeral for some older-than-dirt politician that I never even heard of, but have to pretend I knew? Or is some stupid prince asking for my hand in marriage again?”
He groaned at her typical response, but wasn’t angry at her. “Zelda, this is good news for a change.” She moaned unenthusiastically. “Sit up and look at me, this is no time for games.”
“Fine,” she shot back, throwing the covers away from her and sitting up to face him with an annoyed expression. “What is it?”
“Link is here. We found him.”
Zelda’s eyes went wide and a tiny glimmer of hope flashed across her face, but quickly disappeared. “This is a joke, isn’t it? That’s not funny at all.”
“Do you think I would joke about something like that?” her father said irritably. “I’m serious, he’s downstairs right now. He just showed up. I don’t know where’s he’s been and how he got here, but neither does he. But I have little doubt that it’s really him.”
Zelda shook her head. “No, this can’t be real. I’ve had this dream before. I’m going to see Link, and when I try to touch him, he’ll disappear. It happens every time.” He leaned over and pinched Zelda’s arm. She yelped. “What was that for?”
“You’re not dreaming.” Zelda shot out of bed and ran for the door, but her balance was off and she nearly fell over. Luckily, her father caught her before she could fall. “Goddesses, I’m so pathetic!”
He helped her up and took her arm to support her. “It’s all right, Sweetie. I’ll help you.” Zelda leaned on him heavily for support. Her head was swimming and she felt weak and tired. She hadn’t had a decent meal in weeks, and it took a heavy toll on her strength. “Everything is going to get better.”
Link waited patiently for Impa to return with some decent clothing, and in the meantime he sat next to the small wood stove for warmth. He didn’t realize until now how much the cold had cut through him. The heat felt great, and he lost himself in the moment. The clearing of Impa’s throat snapped him out of his reverie. “Here’s some clean clothes for you. They belong to Zelda’s father, so they should fit you okay. But you might need to tighten the belt a bit, he’s gotten a little wider since his younger days.” Link chuckled and she handed the clothing to him. It was a simple white sweater and a pair of black pants. “I’ll give you some privacy to change. Just yell when you’re done.” Impa left the office and closed the door behind her. Link removed his torn and dirty clothes and was happy to put on something warm and soft. He was surprised at how comfortable these simple garments were; he supposed it was one of the perks of being the King of Hyrule.
“You can come back now,” Link yelled at the door.
Impa returned and looked him over with a critical eye. She seemed to be satisfied and nodded. “Not bad on you,” she said. “Although the extra room around the stomach area gives it away that they aren’t yours.”
“Thanks, I appreciate everything.”
“You’re welcome, Link.”
Both of them waited in silence for Zelda and her father to return. Link felt a little apprehensive about seeing Zelda because he had no idea how she would react. He tried to imagine how he would feel if Zelda had disappeared for a decade, then suddenly returned. He did know that she would be extremely emotional, whatever those emotions would be. He seriously hoped that she didn’t cry; he hated it when she cried. Link would never admit it, seeing Zelda upset made him want to cry too. But he had to stay strong for her, to help her feel better.
“Do you think things will get better?” Link asked, searching for some reassurance.
“Yes. It will be hard at first, but it will get better.”
“I still can’t believe what’s going on. I missed ten years of my life, but more importantly, I lost ten years of my friends’ lives.” He remembered the seven years he’d skipped on his first adventure. He’d been lucky though, he’d gotten those years back and was allowed to live them the way nature intended. But he didn’t know what to make of this situation. There was no wise sage to explain things to him. The world passed him by, and there was no one who could tell him why. “I want to know who did this to me. I need to fix this.”
“There might not be a way to fix it,” said Impa.
“There’s a way to fix everything,” Link insisted. “I just have to find out how.”
“What if nobody is responsible for this?”
Link looked at her as if she’d lost her mind. “A person doesn’t mysteriously disappear and come back ten years later. Someone did this to me on purpose. Every fiber of my being tells me so.”
“You seem to have a better instinct on supernatural things,” Impa admitted. “The Sheikah people are known for their special connection to magic and the world beyond death, but this is something else. Your powers are something else entirely. I’ve never met anyone quite like you. I suppose if anyone can figure it out, it’d be you. I’ll do anything in my power to help, and I’m sure Harikana would agree when I say that all of Hyrule’s resources are at your disposal.”
“Thanks, I really appreciate it.”
The door to the office opened and Zelda wobbled in, almost hanging off her father. The second she laid eyes on him, she froze. She stared into Link’s eyes, silently analyzing him. Impa and her father watched the pair with curiosity. It was as if they were silently communicating with each other on a level no one else could understand. In a way, it was true; but the communication was on a more spiritual and emotional level than actual words or ideas. Link could feel the emotions flow from her; every feeling from total sadness and despair to joy.
Zelda’s eyes glistened with unshed tears, and she gave a small smile. “It really is you,” she whispered. She let go of her dad’s arm and took a shaky step forward. But Link anticipated her trouble and caught her as she fell. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him full on the mouth. Link was surprised that she would do that in front of her father, but he ignored that thought and kissed her back. They continued their passionate kiss until the finally had to break apart just to take a breath. “Oh yes, it’s definitely him.”
Zelda’s legs were shaky, so Link picked her up, gently set her on a couch, and sat next to her. Zelda didn’t seem to like this arrangement, so she scooted into his lap and put her arms around him again. Link knew exactly what was about to happen; Zelda’s eyes watered, she put her head on his shoulder, and started crying. All he could do was comfort her and rub her back as she sobbed. He felt his eyes water, but he fought back his own tears. “Link, I missed you so much,” she stammered out between sobs.
Link kissed her on the head and stroked her hair. “Ni keto janeka,” Link whispered into her ear. I love you. It was a Kokiri phrase that Link had always said to her. At first, she didn’t know what it meant, until she asked Saria. After that, Link had taught her the language so she wouldn’t feel like any outsider in the Kokiri Forest. It had been the first language Link had spoken, so saying that phrase to Zelda in Kokiri was far more intimate for him.
“Ne kito ya janeka,” Zelda whispered back. I love you too. Zelda cried for several minutes more, but finally calmed down. She lifted her head off his shoulder and sniffled a couple times. Link handed her a handkerchief that Impa had given him, and Zelda used it to wipe the tears off her face. Although she no longer had her arms wrapped around Link, she still kept a tight hold on his hand, fearful that he would vanish if she let go.
“I’ll make everything better, I promise,” Link said.
“Don’t make a promise like that,” Zelda admonished. “You don’t know what will happen in the future. All I want is for you to stay with me.”
“I’ll always be with you.” He gave her a reassuring smile. “I won’t let anything change that. I’ll get to the bottom of this, and I’ll do anything I can to fix it.”
“What if it can’t be fixed?” Zelda asked, the pessimism obvious in her tone. “We didn’t know what happened to you for ten years. Then you show up out of the blue, and you don’t even know what happened. How could you fix it if you don’t even know what happened?”
Link sighed in frustration. Zelda obviously had little or no hope left, and it would take a long time to help her get her confidence back. Link knew that the odds against him were great, but he’d won against odds greater than this. Even if he could never figure out what caused this problem, he would still stay with Zelda and never leave her for anything. “Maybe I won’t be able to fix it. But that won’t change how I feel.”
Zelda seemed satisfied with his response, but felt a little guilty for criticizing him when he was only trying to make her feel better. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have doubted you like that.”
“I can understand how bad it’s been for you. I would’ve searched the whole world until I found you or died trying.”
“I tried that,” said Zelda. “But they stopped me. They wouldn’t let me spend the rest of my life looking for you. I had no choice. It was supposedly for the good of Hyrule.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Link said. “The people need you. You’ll be queen one day, and you have to be there for them.”
“I don’t dread it now that you’re here.”
Link smiled and hugged her tightly, gently rubbing her back. When they moved apart, Link had a small frown on his face. “You’re too skinny,” he said. “I could feel your ribs.” Link now noticed Zelda’s physical condition; he’d been too caught up in comforting her to notice. She definitely looked older, like a woman of twenty-six. But she didn’t look healthy. Her skin looked pale and pallid. She’d always had a very light complexion, but now she was sickly-looking. He could see that her arms were thin and bony, and he was pretty sure that her ribcage was visible as well.
Zelda lowered her head, ashamed that Link had to see her like this. “I know, I look horrible. If you think I’m hideous, go ahead and say so.”
“What? No, I don’t think you’re hideous at all,” Link assured her. “Don’t ever think about yourself like that. You’ll always be beautiful to me. All I meant to say was that you need to eat more. I know you haven’t been taking care of yourself.”
“I told the cook to prepare some food for us,” Impa said. “It should be done by now.”
“I’m not that hungry,” Zelda said.
“Well, I’m starving,” said Link. He looked over at Zelda. “You’re eating too. You have to eat something or you’ll never get your strength back.”
“All right. I’ll have something.”
“Okay, let’s go then,” Link said. He took a secure hold on Zelda’s arm and led her towards a small, private dining room. The king silently thanked the goddesses for this turn of events. Zelda’s constant self-neglect made him more and more worried every day. But all it took was Link’s gentle encouragement to set Zelda on the path back to normal. Link was a strong person, and Zelda’s father had no doubt that he would use that strength to mend Zelda’s body and soul.
A man wearing a long, brown cloak wandered through the castle village, using extra caution not to be seen. It was common to see outsiders in the village, whether they were foreign dignitaries, guests of residents, or people shopping; so the man wasn’t too concerned about ordinary citizens seeing him. The ones he worried about were the few that might recognize him.
The man, in his early forties, looked with amazement at the town around him. The town looked so much different now than he remembered. He hadn’t been here in years, and the last time he saw it, there was nothing but total destruction. He smiled at the simple beauty of the village, something he so sorely missed. But he couldn’t waste his time reminiscing; he had a mission to accomplish.
He had seen the young man, Link, stumble through the cold winter night, disoriented and confused. The man couldn’t help but chuckle quietly when he’d seen Link deal with the castle guards. He wished that he could confront Link directly right now, but that would have proved fruitless. If he’d confronted Link now, there was little chance he’d believe what he had to say. So all he could do was wait until Link discovered what had happened to him. Then he could perform his mission.
The mission was the only thing that mattered to the middle-aged man. It was his last-ditch effort to preserve the life he had once had, along with the lives of his friends and family. Luckily, he knew Link well. He knew his personality, mannerisms, and even his thoughts. The man also knew exactly what Link was going to do in the next couple of days. There was always a chance of some random variation from what he expected, but the overall outcome would be the same. For now, all he could do was wait.
After he was sure that Link had gotten to the castle safely, he quietly wandered back through the side streets of the town. He couldn’t risk renting a room and being recognized, so he had to rough it. Luckily for him, there was an abandoned building at the far edge of town. The previous owners had moved out, and the new owners wouldn’t move in for a couple weeks. As he approached the door, the man scanned his surroundings to make sure no one had seen him. Then he took an old, rusted skeleton key from his pocket and unlocked the door. The house was cold and dark, but he couldn’t risk lighting a lamp; that would attract too much attention. There was a fireplace on the far side of the room, which was far enough away from the door that it wouldn’t attract much attention. He’d already drawn the drapes and fastened blankets over the windows to block out any light that a fire might produce. He opened his tinderbox and made quick work of starting a fire. There were plenty of logs next to the fireplace, and the new owners wouldn’t miss them. Once he’d gotten the fire going nicely, the man wrapped a couple blankets around himself and lay down to sleep. He’d have a lot of work to do tomorrow if he was going to succeed in his mission.
After much prodding and encouragement, Link had finally convinced Zelda to eat something. She only ate a couple slices of bread and a bowl of soup, but at least it was a start. Now it was time to go to bed. Link was tired, and Zelda had almost fallen asleep several times during the meal. “I’m glad you managed to eat something,” Link said.
“I tried my best,” Zelda replied.
“You need to go to bed,” Link told Zelda as he helped her out of the chair.
“That’s a good idea,” said her father. He hugged her and kissed her on the forehead. “Do you want me to help you upstairs?”
Zelda shrugged her shoulders. “Link will do it. But you can if you want to.”
“That’s okay,” her father said. “I’ll let him take care of you.” He looked over at Link. “I trust you. Be good to her.”
“I’ll protect her with my life,” Link said firmly. Link took Zelda’s arm and led her out of the dining room.
Imps stopped him for a moment before he left. “Your usual guestroom is ready.”
“Thanks,” Link said as he led Zelda away. Neither spoke as they went upstairs to Zelda’s room. Link was too busy trying to keep Zelda from falling, and she was too focused on staying awake. She sighed with relief when they reached her room. Link pulled back the covers for her and helped her into bed. She collapsed with an exhausted sigh. Link gave her a bewildered look and scratched his head.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Link looked at the bed then back at her, unsure if he was just seeing things. “Um...Is that my pillow? And my blanket?”
Zelda looked at the blanket and pillow in question, suddenly feeling silly. “Yeah, they’re yours.”
“I don’t know if I should ask why or not.”
“They reminded me of you,” she said sheepishly. “Solo didn’t want to live alone, so she moved in with Malon to live and work at the ranch. So I asked her if it was okay if I borrowed your blankets and stuff. I know it sounds weird...but I wanted something.”
Link’s eyes widened and he looked frantic. “Oh my goddesses! I forgot about Solo! Is she doing okay? I can’t believe I forgot about her. I’m such a horrible brother...”
Zelda interrupted his self-deprecating rant, “Wait, calm down. You’re not a terrible brother. It’s my fault you didn’t think of her. We’ll both go see her tomorrow. It’s too cold, and you’re too tired to go there now.”
Link nodded. “You’re right. And I need to see Saria too. It’s okay that you took my blankets. I can understand that.” He leaned over and kissed her. “Good night. I hope you can sleep tonight. I’ll be in my room if you need me.” Link went to walk away.
“Wait.” Link stopped and turned around. “Don’t leave. Please.” She scooted over and patted the spot next to her. “Sleep with me, I don’t want to be alone.”
Link’s eyes went wide. “Zelda, I don’t think I’m quite ready for...”
“Get your mind out of the gutter.” Link’s face reddened when he realized that wasn’t what Zelda meant. Luckily the room was dark and she couldn’t see his embarrassment. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Sorry,” Link apologized. “I didn’t mean to think that about you.”
“It’s all right. Men can’t help it. But all I wanted was for you to sleep next to me, that’s all. It’s cold out, and I’m sick of being alone.”
“But I don’t want to make your father mad.”
Zelda sighed. “Don’t worry about him. You’ve earned his trust. And I’m a grown woman, if I want to sleep with you, I will. Even if it is what you were thinking.” She sensed his unease and quickly clarified. “But it’s not. Just sleep, that’s it. Please?”
“All right, I’d like that.” Link hesitated for a moment and Zelda wondered what he was worried about now.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He plucked at his sweater. “These clothes aren’t going to be comfortable to sleep in. And I don’t think I should take them off. That might be a little awkward...too tempting.”
“Yeah, I see your point. Go check the guestroom; they might have laid out some sleeping clothes for you. It’s cold out, and it would be common courtesy.”
Link nodded and left for his usual guestroom. As Zelda said, on the bed lay a pair of purple silk pajamas. He quickly removed his borrow clothes, threw them on the bed, and put on the pajamas. He was amazed at the feeling of the silk against his bare skin. It felt so light, but warm as well. He would definitely have to get some of these. His normal clothes felt like burlap compared to what he was wearing now. Link left the guest bedroom and went back to Zelda’s room, where she was patiently waiting. Link slid into bed next to her and pulled up the blankets. Zelda immediately sidled up to him and put her head on his shoulder.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” she murmured quietly. “I’m always so cold at night, and you’re so warm. I love you.”
“I love you too Zelda,” Link replied, kissing her gently. “Always.” Link put his arm around her and they both drifted into a contented sleep.
The man woke up early, just before sunrise. He checked the fireplace to make sure it was out, and looked around to see if there were any glowing embers laying around. Satisfied that the house was safe and secure, he opened the door and left. He locked the door and put the key back into his pocket. He couldn’t leave any evidence behind. Ashes in a fireplace weren’t a problem, those were there to begin with. But anything he brought with him, he had to keep with him.
The man decided to wander around town like a normal visitor, but in reality, he was only killing time until the drawbridge opened. He considered buying a pastry from a vendor, but decided against it. He could eat later. He slowly walked towards the entrance of the town, counting the minutes until dawn. And right on time, the loud ratcheting noise of the drawbridge could be heard. He was the first one to leave the village this morning, nodding politely to the guard as he left.
Now in the open expanse of Hyrule Field, the man walked briskly toward his next destination: the Kokiri Forest. No snow had fallen during the night, and what was already on the ground was thin, especially on the field’s well-worn paths. The almost bare path was in excellent condition for foot travel. There was little or no ice, so he could jog most of the way there. If he could keep up a steady pace, he could make it to the forest and avoid meeting Link on the way there.
Link opened his eyes and yawned widely, wondering for a second where he was. He felt Zelda clutched tightly to him, and the memories came flooding back. Zelda looked calm and peaceful as she slept, much better than the emotional wreck she’d been the night before. He wasn’t sure what time it was, probably late morning. Zelda looked so happy that he didn’t want to risk waking her up. And from the stories he’d heard, she definitely needed the rest. So he lay there, trying not to move, waiting for her to wake on her own. He could lie here forever if he had to. He enjoyed the feeling of Zelda’s warm body against his.
Zelda stirred a little and moaned quietly. Her eyelids fluttered and opened. When she realized she was lying next to Link and not dreaming she smiled. Link gently stroked her hair and waited to see if she would get up or go back to sleep. Zelda decided to wake up. She sat up and yawned, and stretched her arms. “I haven’t slept that well in years,” she said. “Thank you for staying with me.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Link said. They both got out of bed and kissed each other. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Linkie-pooh.”
Link smiled widely on hearing her use his pet name. That was a definite sign that she was feeling better. He looked at the clock and saw that it was almost ten o’clock, not too late or too early as far as he was concerned. “I’m surprised no one tried to wake us up.”
“Daddy and Impa gave up on that a long time ago,” Zelda said with a shrug. She looked down at herself, then at Link. She was in her nightgown and he in his pajamas. “We should probably get dressed, and then go to breakfast.” Link nodded in agreement.
“You can wear the same clothes as yesterday, you weren’t in them for long.”
“Okay. I’ll wait outside your room until you’re done; I know it’ll take an hour or so.”
“I’ll try to only take forty-five minutes,” she said, rolling her eyes and shooing him out. With a happy, light-hearted feeling, he went to his room and put his other loaned clothes back on. He hoped that Zelda’s good attitude would remain. Link was done changing in a minute, but figured Zelda would take a while longer. He patiently waited outside her door for some sign that she was done. After about ten minutes, she called from inside, “Okay, you can come in now.”
Link entered her room, amazed that she’d gotten dressed so quickly. His question was answered when he saw that she hadn’t brushed her hair or put on makeup. She was waiting patiently at her vanity table, brush in hand. Link smiled and went over to her. “I was wondering how you got done so quickly,” he said. “You didn’t do all your primping and preening.”
She smiled sweetly at him. “I thought you could preen me today.” She handed Link the brush and he delicately and diligently went to work. He brushed her hair as gently as possible, hoping he wouldn’t catch too many tangles. He’d done this several times before, and each time he got better. The best part was that they both enjoyed it; Zelda liked the attention from him, and he liked doing it for her.
Link frowned when he hit a bunch of tangles, and tried his best to brush them out without hurting her. “You haven’t been taking care of your hair, have you?” he asked.
“No,” she admitted. “I didn’t really care. But now that you’re here, I can look pretty for you again. I had no reason to before.”
“You’ll always look pretty to me, even now. I know you don’t feel healthy now, but you’ll get better. I’ll love you skinny or fat, or anything in between.”
“Thanks, Link. That really means a lot to me. I know it must be strange for you to wake up in a world that’s left you behind. But I know you’ll adapt to it.”
“It’s strange, but I will get to the bottom of this.” He stopped brushing and stood back to look at his work. He gazed expectantly at Zelda and she nodded in approval. Then she opened her make up box and dug through it. Link stared in wonder at the unending assortment of powders, creams, lotions, colors, and potions. She decided on some kind of flesh-colored powder and what looked to be lipstick. After she was done, she looked to Link for his opinion.
“You look beautiful as always,” he said. “It’s weird that you’re older than me, though. But now I get to see what you look like as a grown woman. You really don’t look that much different, just a little more mature, I guess. It’s hard to describe.” He looked her up and down, trying to notice the difference. “You’re a little bit taller. That must be it.” He nodded, satisfied that he’d figured it out. “Do you want some breakfast now, I could use something to eat. Are you hungry?” Zelda opened her mouth to answer but her interrupted her, “You’re eating even if you’re not hungry.”
“Yes, I’ll eat something. If you want to baby me, that’s fine.”
“I’m not going to insult you like that,” Link said.
“I was just joking. I know you wouldn’t do that.” Link offered his hand and she gladly took it. As they made their way to the dining room downstairs. Link kept a careful eye on her in case she stumbled or fell like the night before. But she walked steadily and didn’t falter. Link was amazed at what a decent meal and a good night’s sleep could do.
When they entered the dining room, Impa and Zelda’s father were already there, chatting. “I hope you weren’t waiting for us to get up,” Zelda said.
“No, actually we got up not too long ago,” her father replied. “We figured we’d wait for you.”
“I had a hunch that Link would get you up and about,” Impa added. “I’ll go tell the servants that we’re ready.”
“You look really great today, sweetie,” said Zelda’s father. He couldn’t have been more grateful that Zelda finally had a zest for life again. The light in her eyes was back, and she actually smiled. It was amazing how one man’s presence could change Zelda so drastically overnight. He sincerely hoped that the happiness wasn’t temporary and that Link and Zelda’s relationship could continue despite the bizarre circumstances.
Before Zelda sat down, she went over to her father and hugged and kissed him. “Good morning, Daddy,” she said sweetly. Link pulled out a chair for Zelda and then sat next to her. Impa returned and told everyone that breakfast would be served soon.
“I’m going to go see my sister today,” Link said to everyone. “I need to start rebuilding my life.”
“We’ll give you all the help you need,” offered the king. “Feel free to use one of our horses.” He looked over at Zelda. “Are you going with him?”
“Yeah, I want to, but... I don’t think I have the strength and coordination to ride a horse today.”
“It’s okay, you can ride with me,” Link said. “Neither of us is heavy, and your horses are strong, two people can fit easily. I don’t want you to get hurt or anything.”
“That’s fine then,” said Zelda. “Let’s eat something and then we can go.”
The man in the cloak finally reached the entrance to the Kokiri Forest. It took him about two and a half hours to get there, which was good time considering the weather. He walked through the hollow to the bridge, climbed over the side, and dropped down. He knew his way around the Kokiri Forest, and he could easily hide out in the Lost Woods until Link arrived. He knew that Link would arrive later in the day, but he wouldn’t be alone. The hard part would be to get Link alone.
Link borrowed a thick winter coat and boots for his quick journey to the Lon Lon ranch. Zelda changed into a sweater and pair of pants, with a thick coat and cloak over that. “Are you ready to go now?” asked Link. Zelda nodded. Link took her hand and they walked out the rear entrance of the castle to the stables. The workers gave Link weird looks, but quickly stiffened and tried to look more productive when they realized that the princess was with him.
“We can take my horse,” Zelda suggested. They walked over to one of the stables, which housed a majestic-looking white mare. She had gotten the horse five years ago after her previous one became too old to work. The new horse was young, and eager to please. When the horse saw Zelda, it neighed at her. Zelda rubbed the horse’s muzzle affectionately. “Her name is Honeycomb. She’s strong and fast, I think you’ll like riding her.”
Link expertly saddled the horse and prepared it for riding. Honeycomb seemed to like him, and didn’t show any signs of uneasiness, so Link mounted it. He gave Zelda a hand and she sat behind him. It was a tight fit, but wasn’t too uncomfortable. She wrapped her arms around Link’s waist and told him she was ready to go. “Okay, let’s see how good this horse is,” Link said, and he led the horse out of the stable and toward the castle gates.
Malon was busy tending to the horses in the stable, making sure they were fed and watered. She hated wintertime from a working perspective because it took much more effort to keep the animals warm. She checked the fire in the stove in the corner to make sure it had enough wood to last a few hours. Most of the horses had blankets, except a couple that were too stubborn to wear them. When she was satisfied that everything was good, she left the stable to go back into her warm house for some relaxation. She could rest for a while now that her morning chores were done.
The ranch had expanded significantly over the years, and they’d even built another small cottage on the land to house Malon and Solo. Malon entered her house and took off her boots and coat. “Solo, are you up?” she called. There was no answer, so she went to check the bedroom. It was almost one o’clock , but sometimes Solo would sleep all day, depending on what she had been doing the day before. But Solo hadn’t been up late working herself half to death like she did sometimes, so she shouldn’t be in bed. Malon checked the bedroom, and it was empty. Malon knew where Solo was now. At the other side of the house was a small room that they called “the shrine.” Malon opened the door, and sure enough, Solo was in there. The room was dimly lit with candles and the smell of incense wafted through the air. At the head of the room was an altar topped with symbols of the Triforce, copies of holy relics, prayer books, and over a dozen of Solo’s personal sacrifices. Solo was kneeling in front of the altar, her eyes closed and head bowed, reciting prayers in Ancient Hylian.
Solo was in deep concentration, but was aware enough to know that Malon had cracked open the door. Solo finished her final prayer and stood up. She blew out the candles and put out the incense. They both left the shrine and sat in front of the fireplace. “Were you in there all morning?” Malon asked. Solo went in there every day to pray, but normally didn’t spend more than ten or fifteen minutes there. Occasionally Solo would get an urge to spend hours praying, and Malon left her alone.
“Yeah. I’ve had this strange feeling since last night, and I was asking for guidance.”
“What kind of strange feeling?” Solo had many different “strange feelings”, and Malon had no idea which one she meant.
Solo’s brow furrowed. “I don’t really know.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s not something bad...at least I don’t think so. But I don’t know if it’s a good thing either.”
“Does it remind you of anything?” Malon asked. Sometimes it helped when Solo compared it to past experiences.
“Now that I think about it...” Solo trailed off and shook her head. “No, it can’t be. You’d laugh at me.”
“I wouldn’t laugh at you, Angel.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you what the feeling reminds me of. It’s just like when met Link, when I found out he was my brother. It’s like I’m sensing his feelings. I can feel love and concern, like he’s terribly worried about me. I even dreamed about him last night. But it was weird, because I wasn’t in it, it was like I was watching him from afar. Link was lost in some kind of strange land, and he didn’t know how he got there. He was confused. He tried to find answers, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t find his way. And that was it.”
Solo was on the verge of tears, so Malon pulled her into a tight hug. “I know you miss him,” Malon said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever find out what happened to him. But I’ll always be here to help you through anything.”
Solo choked back a sob. “I think we’re going to find out what happened to him, and I’m worried that it’ll be bad.” She sniffled a little and whimpered. “I don’t want to end up finding his dead body somewhere.”
“What if your dream is right? Maybe he is lost somewhere. If he is, he’ll find a way back. Link would never leave you on purpose.”
Solo’s head shot up and she looked to be in deep concentration. “I think Zelda’s coming,” Solo said. “I can hear her horse.”
Malon was always amazed by Solo’s exceptional hearing. She learned long ago that Solo could hear things that others didn’t. Malon didn’t even bother to ask is Solo was sure; she went to the door and opened it to see if Zelda had arrived. Malon saw Zelda’s horse, but was confused when she saw a man riding it. When the horse turned she saw that Zelda was indeed on the horse, sitting behind the man. As the horse came closer, she could’ve sworn that the man riding it was Link. But that wasn’t even possible. Perhaps it was a guard or something who came as an escort.
The horse stopped in the stable and the man, followed by Zelda, took it inside. Malon stepped back into the house and looked at Solo. “It’s Zelda, but she was riding with some man.”
Solo gave a confused look. “Some man? Do you know who he is?”
“No, I can’t tell from here.” Malon looked outside again to see Zelda jogging towards the house, with the man chasing after her. Malon gasped loudly, not believing her eyes. But she was absolutely certain when he came close enough for her to make out his features; it was Link. “Dear goddesses!” she shrieked. “It’s Link!”
“What? You’re joking!”
“No, I’m serious,” Malon insisted.
Solo jumped up and ran past Malon and out the door. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Link, in the flesh, coming toward her. Zelda stopped at her side, a huge smile plastered on her face. “It’s really him,” Zelda said.
Solo took off and ran the rest of the distance to Link. She tackled him in a hug, and almost knocked him over. “Oh Link!” Solo squealed. “You’re back! I knew you’d come back.”
“Can we go inside?” Link asked, barely able to breathe.
“Oh! Oh yes. I’m sorry.” Solo looked at him excitedly. “Come in and see our house. I’m sure you’ll love it.” Link followed her inside, then hung up his coat and took off his boots. But before he could look around, Solo hugged him again. “The goddesses finally heard my prayers. I missed you so much. I love you.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Where have you been? Were you kidnapped? Did you get lost in some other world? Because I had this dream last night that you were lost in a strange place and couldn’t find your way back. What happened to you?”
Link had trouble understanding her because everything came out in one long, uninterrupted sentence. He didn’t think she even took a breath. “I don’t know what happened,” Link answered simply. “I don’t know where I’ve been for the last ten years.”
Solo looked at him strangely. “You mean...you have no memory of what happened to you?”
“I don’t even know exactly what happened. I woke up in an alley last night, and found out that ten years have gone by.”
Malon poked Solo to get her attention. “Solo, look closely at him.”
Solo looked him up and down, scrutinizing every detail. Then she understood. “You haven’t changed at all,” Solo mumbled. “I can’t believe it.”
“All of you are older than me now. I don’t know how this happened. I skipped over ten years. Everyone’s different, and I missed so much of your lives. I don’t know how to begin to start over.”
Solo hugged Link again and tried to soothe him. “It’s going to be all right now. This is a miracle; the goddesses have answered my prayers. After you were gone, I helped Zelda in the search. But after a while, it became fruitless. I went to the temple to try to find some solace. A priest there helped me. He taught me about the three goddesses and how nothing is impossible with them. You’ve even spoken to them. I figured that if you were special enough for them to talk to you directly, then maybe they’ll hear me.”
“I didn’t know you were so faithful,” Link said.
“I wasn’t at first,” Solo replied. “But the priest told me that if I had faith, then everything would work out in the end. I prayed for you everyday, Link. I prayed for you to come back to us, or if that wasn’t possible, that you were safe. I learned all the Ancient Hylian prayers and incantations. I can read and speak the language now. I’ve done every single thing in the ancient traditions: I fasted, I performed works of charity, and I made personal sacrifices.”
Link noticed that when Solo mentioned personal sacrifices, Malon’s face fell. He looked at her with a questioning gaze. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“The personal sacrifices,” Malon whispered. “The blood sacrifice.”
Link’s eyes widened. “What? Blood sacrifice!”
“Calm down Link,” Solo said. “I only did that once.”
“What is a blood sacrifice?” Link asked, his voice cracking. The mere mention of his sister and some kind of blood sacrifice made his heart race with worry.
“It was a last resort,” Solo continued. “I read some ancient books about prayers and stuff. One of the things I saw was rituals to save a loved one. The book talked about personal sacrifices. I you offer up a possession that is dear to you, then that shows selflessness and the goddesses reward selflessness. The book said that the most potent personal sacrifice was blood. So I tried it.”
Link looked almost frantic with worry. He remembered what Zelda had done to herself when she thought he’d died, and he was afraid that Solo had done the same thing. “I know what you’re thinking,” said Solo. “I didn’t try to kill myself. I made a little cut on the palm of my hand and dripped some blood onto a smaller personal sacrifice.”
“I wasn’t exactly thrilled when she did that,” Malon said.
“I only did it once. All I wanted was for you to be safe. It was a little cut, nothing major.”
“What was this other personal sacrifice?” Link asked.
“It was my hair.” That explained it. He was surprised when he first saw Solo, because her hair was barely shoulder-length. He didn’t want to mention it in case it had been a traumatic experience. Now he knew why. “I had to sacrifice something that was dear to me, so I chose my hair.”
“You cut it off for me?” Link didn’t know what to think. He knew that she had a rather unusual emotional attachment to her hair. Washing and brushing it was an almost religious ritual for her. He felt bad that she believed she had to do something like that.
“Don’t feel guilty. It was my choice, and it wouldn’t have been a sacrifice if I gave up something I didn’t care about. My hair isn’t really gone, it’s in the shrine. I keep it as a reminder to be pious and faithful. And it all paid off. I’m so happy.” She hugged and squeezed him again. “All my prayers have been answered. You’re safe and sound. All that matters is that you’re here, we can worry about everything else later. I love you so much, and I missed you.”
“What’s this shrine?” Link asked.
Solo pointed to a door. “It’s that room over there. It’s where I say my prayers. Come see it.” Link followed her into the little room and gasped at what he saw. Her little altar was one of the most elaborate things he’d ever seen. There were candles everywhere, little statues on the altar, and paintings on the walls. At the center of the altar was Solo’s cut hair, tied with a ribbon. He looked closely and saw the dried blood stain on it. Folded neatly under the altar was some green cloth, which Link realized was his clothes. Solo saw his confusion. “I created this altar to the goddesses as was prescribed in the Book of Mudora. It also said that when praying for someone, placing an object of theirs under the altar will help. I did a lot of things that seemed weird, but I figured that it couldn’t hurt. The most important thing was having faith in the goddesses. Physical objects were there just to help me keep focus.”
“I’m impressed,” Link said. “It’s really nice.”
Solo bent over and retrieved Link’s clothes from under the altar. She handed him the neatly-folded pile. “Here, I don’t need them anymore. And I’m sure you feel weird wearing those strange clothes. You can change in my bedroom. Don’t worry, they’re clean. I wash them every now and then to get rid of the dust.”
They left the shrine and Zelda smiled when she saw Link holding his old clothes. “Oh goodie. I wanted to see you in your regular clothes. It’s weird seeing you in something else.”
Link agreed. Although his borrowed clothes were comfortable, he still preferred to wear his own. Link went to the bedroom to change and closed the door behind him. “It’s so great to see him alive and well,” Malon said to break the awkward silence. “I always had hope, but I thought we’d never see him again. But how could he be the same age as when he left? That’s not possible.”
“I don’t know,” Zelda said with a shrug. “He just woke up in an alley last night. He’s determined to find out what caused this. He skipped ten years, how does something like that happen?”
“I can tell you one thing: it wasn’t supposed to happen this way,” said Solo. “It wasn’t an accident, or some freak of nature. Someone deliberately did this, and did it with evil intentions. I can feel it. This isn’t over. Whoever did this to Link is going to find out he’s here, and that will only make things worse.”
The others mulled over what Solo said, and no one could think of anything to say. Then Link came out of the bedroom dressed in his usual clothes, minus his hat. “I seem to be missing my hat,” Link said, running his hand through his hair. “I feel weird without it.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Linkie-pooh,” said Zelda, her cheeks tinged slightly pink. “I forgot it at home. It was under my pillow.”
“Well, that’s okay, I have more at home-assuming that my stuff is still there.”
“Everything is intact,” Solo said. “We left everything the way it was for when you came back. Well...it’s not exactly how it was. Zelda borrowed your blanket and pillow, and Saria insisted on putting everything in drawers. But other than that, all your stuff is fine.”
“Solo, tell Link what you said earlier,” Malon suggested.
Link looked at Solo to elaborate. “I’m sure you feel it, Link, deep down inside. This isn’t right. Someone evil is behind what happened to you. I don’t know what it is, but I’m afraid that it will destroy everything we’ve gained.”
“I know what you’re talking about,” Link admitted. “I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to interrupt our happy reunion. But I have a hunch that somebody with bad intentions did this. I will find out.”
“We need to go see Saria,” said Solo. “Of all people, I think she misses you the most. She’s known you the longest, it’s only natural. She hides her pain well, but I can tell. The other Kokiri miss you too. You’re like a big brother to all of them.”
“Every meal she sets a place for you at her table,” Zelda said, a tear running down her cheek.
Link imagined his best friend hoping every night that he would come back, then crying when he didn’t. Saria must’ve been heartbroken not knowing what happened to him or why. “I have to see her. Can we go now?”
“Yes, let’s go,” Solo said happily. They all put on their coats, boots, and gloves. As Link was about to walk out the door, Malon stopped him and handed him a carrot. He gave her a confused look.
“What’s this for?” he asked.
“It’s for Epona. She’ll be so happy to see you.”
Link’s eyes lit up. “Epona? She’s still alive?”
“Of course she is, horses live for twenty-five or thirty years. She’s only sixteen. She’s got lots of good years left. But, I know this sounds silly,” she gave a nervous chuckle, “but she’s been sad since you left. She rarely lets us ride her. And one time she jumped the fence and we thought she ran away. It turns out that she went to the Kokiri forest looking for you. I’ve never seen a horse that clever.”
Link had the expression of an excited child and he ran out to the stables to see his horse. He saw Epona’s head and distinctive mane sticking out of the stall at the end of the stable. He didn’t have his ocarina to play her song, so he let out a distinctive whistle that he used to call her when she wasn’t far away. Epona’s ears perked up and she looked around frantically. When she saw Link walk up to her, Epona neighed and stood on her hind legs, hopping up and down a couple times. Link went up to his horse and affectionately rubbed her muzzle and neck. She rubbed up against him and even licked him a couple of times. He fed her the carrot, which she devoured quickly. “Oh, Epona, I’m so sorry,” Link said in a high-pitched, baby voice. “You must’ve missed me. I’m back, and I won’t go anywhere.” He opened the door to the stall, and Epona went right past him and stopped right next to the saddles. She was definitely eager for a ride. Link fastened the saddle and reins, and led her outside, where everyone was waiting.
“I knew she’d be happy to see you,” Malon said with a smile. “So what are we going to do? Zelda, are you up to riding?”
She nodded. “I think I can handle it now. I feel a lot better than before.”
“Great, then let’s get going,” Solo said.
Saria didn’t feel like doing her normal chores for the day. Sometimes she would just lie in bed all day and stare at the ceiling. She wasn’t in bed now, but wasn’t doing anything constructive either. Many of the other Kokiri were outside having fun; they threw snowballs at each other, and attempted to build snowmen, but the snow was too thin and powdery. The snowballs weren’t turning out too well either. Saria would’ve liked to join them, but she didn’t feel up to it. This was one of those days when she didn’t feel like doing anything.
Saria got up and threw another log into the stove to keep the fire going. It was late afternoon, and she would normally make a light dinner about this time. She wasn’t too hungry, but could stand to eat something. She decided to make oatmeal with some dried apples. As usual, she set a place for Link, even though he wouldn’t be there.
Saria sat down to her small meal and ate it slowly. She couldn’t even taste the food; either that, or she didn’t care. Link was all she could think about today. Everyone else was having fun, and that reminded her of the carefree days she and Link had together when he was a child. Those should’ve been happy memories, but her loneliness couldn’t be fixed. She didn’t want to cry, but she couldn’t help it. Saria put her head on the table and sobbed. She would’ve given anything to have someone to talk to, someone who would understand. The other Kokiri wouldn’t understand.
Her misery was interrupted when the telltale sound of hooves reached her ears. Somebody was coming, maybe Zelda, or Solo and Malon. At least she had someone to talk to now. She waited expectantly for one of her friends to greet her. Malon and Solo walked inside and greeted her. Saria hugged Solo. “I’m so glad you came,” Saria said, trying to hide the fact that she’d been crying. “I was so lonely.” Zelda walked in a moment later and Saria’s smile grew. “It’s a family reunion!” Saria went over to Zelda and hugged her as well.
Saria froze completely when a familiar voice greeted her. “Hi Saria,” said Link. She stared at him, dumbfounded. She must’ve finally gone crazy. She dreamed and hoped that Link would come back that she finally lost her mind. That had to be it. Link was confused at Saria’s lack of a response, so he kneeled down and embraced her.
Saria stiffened noticeably and looked up at him with total shock. “You’re real!” she exclaimed. Saria jumped towards him and returned the embrace, knocking him flat on his back. “You came back for me.” She kissed him at least a dozen times all over his face. “I missed you so much. I missed our meals together; I missed talking to you especially. No one else here understands things like you do. Where have you been?”
Every time he heard that question, it still threw him for a loop. He didn’t understand what had happened, but he still had to explain what he knew. “I don’t really know. I woke up in an alley in the town last night, and I found out that I skipped ten years. Time passed for everyone else, but not for me. I suspect that evil forces are behind this. But every time I’ve fought a battle, I knew who my enemy was. I don’t know this time.”
“Something bad is going to happen, isn’t it?” Saria said sadly.
“I don’t know that for sure. All I want right now is to continue my life. I want things to be normal again.”
Saria didn’t need an explanation of how Link felt; it was plain as day. He felt so confused and upset about the situation. Saria knew that everyone’s emotions were hitting him hard. He always sensed other people’s feelings on an almost supernatural level, and he took them as a burden to protect others. He was doing it right now, she could tell. He’d woken up in a strange new world, and he was already taking responsibility for things. That was the Link she knew.
“Then let’s be normal for one night,” Saria said happily. “We can have a nice dinner, and do things how we used to.” Saria busily went to work gathering supplies to make a meal for five.
Malon revealed a basket that held some fresh vegetables, fruit, bread dough, and chicken. She made sure to have a nice assortment of food for Saria, especially because she didn’t like meat. “I figured this would happen, so I brought food for everyone,” Malon said. Saria smiled, and she and Malon went to work preparing the meal. Link, Zelda, and Solo watched and helped when they could, but none were very adept at cooking.
“I want this to last forever,” Link said.
“Me too,” said Zelda, leaning her head on his shoulder.
Link and his friends and family enjoyed themselves greatly during their reunion. It was late at night, and everyone was ready to go home. Because it was so cold outside, Zelda, Solo, and Malon had to go home to make sure their horses were taken care of. Not long before Link had disappeared, he’d built a small one-horse stable to house Epona when he had her in the forest. He even built a fireplace to keep her warm on cold nights, even though Epona was hardy enough to sleep comfortably with nothing other than a horse blanket. Link fed his horse and pampered her a little before he left for Saria’s house once again. The others had left for another reason as well: they wanted to give Link private time with his closest and oldest friend. Saria had taken his disappearance the hardest, and she needed the time alone with him to heal.
“That was really nice,” Saria said when Link reentered her house to finish cleaning up. “Do you think that our lives will return to normal?”
“I really hope so,” he said, sitting next to her and pulling her close. “I want to find out who is behind this, but that can wait for now.”
“All of us can work on that together. If anyone can figure it out, it’s you. I have faith in you. I love you so much, Link.”
Link hugged her gently and patted her head. “I love you too. We’ll get to the bottom of this, I promise.”
Saria smiled and stood up. She went to her dresser and pulled out some blankets and a pillow. “Here. Since Zelda has your stuff, you can use my extra blankets. I can tell you’re exhausted; you need your sleep.”
Link couldn’t argue with her; she was right. Sleeping in his own bed, especially after such a traumatic experience, would help him feel better. He took the bedclothes and kissed Saria on the forehead. “Goodnight, Saria. I love you.” Saria kissed him back, and he left her house for his own.
He climbed the ladder to his house, and went inside. His first duty was to start a fire to keep warm through the night. His house was exactly as he had left it, except without the usual clutter. He started the fire quickly, then went about preparing his bed. He waited for his tiny house to heat up, which didn’t take very long, before he undressed. Link was about to lie on his bed when he heard a creak on the balcony outside. “Saria, is that you?” he asked. There was no response. Link had excellent hearing, and he knew by the sound of the creak that there was someone standing outside, but because of the curtain over the doorway, he couldn’t see. “Who’s there?” he said in a clear, stern voice. Just to be careful, he pulled on of his swords from its place on the wall, and stood ready to do battle.
“Stand down,” said a voice from outside. “I mean you no harm.” The voice sounded oddly familiar, but Link couldn’t place it.
“Show yourself,” Link commanded. “I’m armed and I will attack you if I have to.”
A man, about Link’s size, entered his house slowly. His arms were in front of him, and his hands were empty. “I’m not armed, and I am not here to hurt you.” The man was wearing a thick brown cloak, with a large hood over his head, obscuring his features.
“Who are you, and why are you trespassing?” Link growled, standing in a defensive stance, ready to attack at any hint of aggression.
The man in the cloak slowly walked past Link and sat down on Solo’s bed. “I told you that I’m not here to hurt you. I know you’re skeptical, and I understand. I won’t do anything to provoke you.”
There was something familiar about this man, but Link wasn’t going to take any chances. The man wisely kept his hands visible and didn’t make any sudden moves. Link relaxed his body and sat down on his bed, still ready to fight at a moment’s notice. “You’re in the wrong place, mister,” Link said firmly. “This forest isn’t for outsiders. You can get lost or hurt. You should leave.”
“Don’t worry about me,” said the man. “I’m really here about you.”
“Stop avoiding my questions. Tell me who you are, or you’ll be sorry you every step foot here.”
“I need to explain myself first. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Link narrowed his eyes. “I’ve heard that before. I’ve seen a lot of things that no one would ever dream of. But I am not going to trust some strange man who just broke into my house.”
“Link, all of this useless talk will get us nowhere. I have something important to tell you, and not a lot of time.”
“How do you know my name?”
“Because I know you through and through,” the man replied. “We’re the same flesh and blood.” He slowly moved his hands to pull his cloak off, and Link readied himself for attack. As soon as the cloak was off the man put his hands on the bed, and kept them away from his body. Link stared at the man in shock. The face looked so familiar. If the man had been thirty years younger, he could’ve passed as his double. But other features didn’t match, the most obvious was a black patch over his right eye. It probably hid a horrendous wound, because Link could see a huge vertical scar that ran from the man’s scalp, through his eye, and down to his chin. The man’s hair was a sandy blonde color, streaked with gray.
“You look familiar,” Link said, trying to think of who this could be. “Are you the one responsible for my being here? Did you screw up my life?”
“No, I didn’t. I’m here to do the exact opposite. A couple years from now, things are going to change drastically. I know, because I’ve already lived through it. I suffered greatly, and I’m here to stop that from happening to you.”
“And how do you know what’s going to happen to me?” Link asked sarcastically. “I’ve met fortune tellers before, and all they know about the future is that the sun will rise tomorrow. So forgive me if I don’t quite believe you.”
“I know what’s going to happen to you because I am you. I’m forty-five years old now, but I’m still you. I guess I’m what you will be.”
Link shook his head. “Just because you come into my house and claim to be me doesn’t mean I’ll believe you. I can see a slight resemblance, but nothing major.”
“I’ll prove it to you,” the man said confidently. He took his gloves off and showed Link the back of his left hand. A few seconds later, a dim ethereal glow in the shape of the Triforce appeared. “Remember this?” Link stared at the man’s hand, dumbfounded. No one other than Zelda even knew about the glowing Triforce on his hand. “I don’t have to tell you what this means. It’s easy to control, just like breathing. You’ve never shown this to anyone but Zelda. And I know it doesn’t mean much, since all it represents is a false relic. But there’s still power in it.”
Link shook his head. “It’s got to be some kind of trick. I don’t believe you.”
“What’s so hard to believe? You just woke up ten years in the future, and your friends believed you. Why won’t you believe me? If you can skip over ten years, who’s to say that I can’t go back thirty years?”
Link had to admit that the man’s story was convincing. “I need more proof,” Link demanded.
The man sighed in frustration. “I should’ve know that you’d be this stubborn. I guess I forgot. A lot can change in thirty years.” The man tried to think of something that would convince himself if the situation was reversed. “Let’s see...I--or you--or maybe we--have a birthmark. It’s reddish-brown, and looks kind of like a butterfly. It’s right above the left side of your butt.”
Link laughed nervously. “Birthmark, huh? What, have you been watching me bathe? Pervert.” The man turned around and pushed the waist of his pants just low enough for Link to see the mark.
Link cringed. “Fine, I’ll believe that. But I don’t know if that’s real or not, you could’ve put it there for all I know.”
“All right, then let’s move on to things that only you would know, things that you never told anyone else.” The older man thought for a moment, searching for the most private and embarrassing moment that he would never dream of telling another living soul about. “Okay. How about in your alternate future, when you were sealed in the Sacred Realm for seven years and woke up as an adult.”
“I remember that,” Link said. “But my friends know about that too.”
“That’s true. But there are things you didn’t tell anyone about. Remember the first time you went to pee? I thought there was something horribly wrong down there. That’s when I figured out that hair doesn’t only grow on your head.” Link’s face turned bright red. He’d never told anyone about that; it was a moment that he’d rather forget. But it didn’t convince him fully, anyone could have made that logical deduction if they knew him well enough. “I see you remember that, but you’re still not convinced. All right, I’ll tell you about the moment you’re most ashamed of. Remember that boy Akuyo? The one that Solo was friends with for a while? You were angry when you found out that he hurt your sister. But you promised her that you wouldn’t do anything to him, that you would let his parents deal with him. You broke your promise. What he did ate at you and ate at you until you couldn’t take it anymore. You thought about killing him, even planned what to do with the body. But no matter how angry you were, you couldn’t bring yourself to kill a man. So you decided to beat him up. You went to his house one day and waited for him to come out. His parents had forced him to attend monastic classes at the temple. They didn’t intend for him to become a monk; they wanted him to learn to be peaceful and humble. You confronted him on his way to the temple. He knew who you were, and apologized profusely. He swore that he would never raise his hand in anger again. He said that he had changed, that the light of the goddesses had shown him the way. He was geuinely sorry.”
Link hung his head in shame; he knew where this was going. The man continued, “But that wasn’t enough for you. You didn’t want to hear his apology. You wanted him to suffer. So while the boy stood there, ashamed and contrite, you punched him. He didn’t retaliate, so that made you angrier. You punched him harder and knocked him to the ground. You ended up breaking his jaw. But Akuyo got up and thanked you for sparing his life. He said that he’d never tell anyone about it, and that he’d say some delinquent kid tried to rob him. He said all this even though his jaw was in excruciating pain.”
“I don’t want to hear this,” Link choked out, trying not to lose control of himself.
“You need to hear it to believe me. That one time in your life, you were the bad guy. Instead of doing the right thing, you gave into your anger and did something you’ve always regretted. I still have nightmares about it today. Do you believe me now?”
Link nodded his head. “Yes, I believe you. I can never forget that day.” Link relaxed and put his sword down. “If you’re from my future, how did you get here? I used the Master Sword to travel through time, but only my consciousness traveled, not my body.”
“That’s true,” said the older Link. “But the Master Sword is not involved. I’ve learned a few things about time travel since then. For one, a person cannot travel to a time when he would encounter himself. That’s why when you used the Master Sword, you couldn’t travel to any times other than when you replaced or removed the sword. You created a connection between two moments in time. Only your mind moved between times, not your body. The Master Sword was a special example. It wasn’t actually time travel as I learned later. It was merely a mental conduit between two moments in your life. Real time travel doesn’t work that way; it involves physical movement of a person’s body from one time to another.”
“Then how are you here?” Link asked. “You said you couldn’t encounter yourself traveling through time. How can you be here?”
Older Link grinned and held up his index finger. “That’s an excellent point. I shouldn’t be here, but I am. The only reason I can be here is because you’re not supposed to be here either. You should be twenty-six years old, but that version of us doesn’t exist in this time. You were taken from your normal timeline and accidentally dumped here. The principles that work behind time travel are far too complicated for me to understand. The best I can understand is that every person has a kind of energy field around him, a sort of ‘time aura’. It’s part of your consciousness and your soul, but this part only has to do with time. The time aura is why you cannot visit yourself in a different time. The two auras cannot exist simultaneously. But our case is different. When you travel to a different time, your aura stays in step with the time you came from, so your aura is different from everyone else’s. Your aura won’t interfere with people native to the time you traveled from, unless you go to a time when your other self is alive. Since your other self is native to that time, it will push you back to where you came from.”
Link tried to follow what his older self said, and he felt confident that he understood it. “Okay, I can understand that,” said the younger Link.
“The native time aura is why we can both be here at the same time,” older Link explained. “Like I said earlier, the Link from this time, who’s supposed to be twenty-six, is not here. There is no Link native to this time. Neither of our auras match this time, so we can both be here. That is why I chose now to come back.”
“Okay, that explains how you can be here,” younger Link said, “but it doesn’t explain why you’re here. You said that something bad was going to happen in a couple years. Is that why you’re here?”
The older Link looked sad, and nodded. “Yes, that’s exactly why I’m here. But ‘bad’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. You have never encountered anything on the scale of what will happen in the near future. In about two years, a bizarre plague will start in Hyrule, and spread to the entire world.”
“How can I possibly stop a plague?” younger Link asked.
“Because it’s not natural. Someone deliberately created and distributed it. A lot of people died.” He paused and hung his head, trying to compose himself. He looked back at the younger Link with tears in his eyes. “It started in the Kokiri Forest ...it killed all of them. Saria was the first to go. She died in my arms. The Kokiri did nothing to deserve to die like that! Then the plague spread like wildfire. Most of the Zoras died, the Gorons, and many Hylians. About a month after it started, the plague vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared. The country was in shambles. Zelda’s father died in the plague, so she was crowned queen. She did a good job rebuilding Hyrule. It was hard, but we did it.”
“The Kokiri all died?” younger Link asked sadly. He was on the verge of tears, but held it in.
The older Link nodded. “I learned later that this plague was designed to kill mostly non-human species. Most Hylians and Gerudos survived the plague; it killed about one in ten of us. It killed ninety-nine out of a hundred of non-humans. But we later found out the true scope of the plague. What made us suspicious was when Zelda and I got married. We tried to start a family, but couldn’t. One or both of us were barren. Then word gradually came in from all the areas affected by the plague. Although most humans survived it, everyone got sick from it. We discovered that anyone who got sick couldn’t have children afterwards. Even couples that had children before couldn’t have more afterwards. The plague killed non-human races, and made humans sterile. The entire country was going to die out in a generation. That’s when the war started.”
Younger Link couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It seemed that the future was so bleak that it wasn’t worth living. He wondered why the older version of himself came back to tell him this. Perhaps it was so he could move his friends and family out of Hyrule to save them. He wasn’t sure. “Who would start a war under those conditions?” younger Link asked in exasperation. “Why not wait until everyone just dies?”
“The war wasn’t just to invade Hyrule. The invaders wanted to turn Hylians into slaves. Every other race was considered trash.”
“Who were the invaders?” young Link asked.
“Some of the invaders were Gerudo, most of the rest were Hyrulian citizens. At first, we thought it was some kind of civil war or attempted revolution, but it wasn’t that simple. The people who attacked did it under the influence of evil spirits. The masterminds took control of ordinary people using a combination of mind control and some kind of addictive potion. They called the potion the ‘nectar of the gods.’ Whoever took it gained enormous strength and stamina; they needed very little food, water, and sleep. They were machines. The nectar also made them more susceptible to mind control. This drug created the perfect soldier; they were strong, loyal, and couldn’t live without the drug.
“I don’t think I need to tell you that Hyrule had no chance. I led the troops into battle. My people fought hard, but everyone knew it was a lost cause. There were too many enemies, and they were too strong. Even worse was that they used our own soldiers against us. People who had mortal wounds, and some who had actually died could be saved with the nectar. Then they fought against us. Their army grew, and ours shrank. But no one gave up; all of my men fought to the death for a war they couldn’t possibly win. I was literally the last man standing. I was ready to meet my fate with the rest of my soldiers, but I wasn’t so lucky.”
“Who did this?” younger Link whispered, afraid that if he talked any louder he would break down.
The older Link gave a hateful scowl. “Oh, I’ll get to that. As I said, I was the last soldier standing. They took me prisoner. I was turned into a slave like everyone else. I expected to be put to work, but my fate was far worse. Some goons took me into the castle, which had become the new capital for the invading army. They threw me into what used to be the ballroom. They had turned it into some kind of torture arena. It was horrible, blood and body parts were everywhere.
“That’s when I found the leader of the invaders. It was a Gerudo woman named Koros. She was the one behind everything. Then she...” he choked up and tried to keep his composure. “They dragged Solo, Malon, and Zelda in front of me. I thought they were safe. I had hidden them with the Guardians. But they were all killed and my family was taken hostage. It was obvious that they’d been beaten. They screamed at me for help, but I couldn’t do anything. There was a large iron chair in the middle of the room and they’d strapped me to it. Then they nailed my hands and feet down. I tried everything I could, but nothing worked. I couldn’t teleport myself anywhere, I couldn’t use magic or sheer will. I was helpless.”
Tears flowed from the older Link’s remaining eye, and he continued, “There was nothing I could do. One by one, they dragged the people I love in front of me. Then that bitch murdered them. She ran Malon through with a sword and spilled her guts on the floor. The she murdered Solo by cutting her throat. Then Zelda...she stabbed her with a dagger dozens of times. I saw the only people I ever loved murdered in cold blood!”
“I don’t want to hear anymore,” younger Link cried. He felt sick to his stomach; he wanted to vomit and cry at the same time. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you have to know!” the older Link scolded. “I never thought it could get any worse after that, but it did. I would’ve given anything to just die on the spot, but they wouldn’t let me. Koros, that horrible, filthy slut wouldn’t let me die. She used me as her personal plaything. She liked to whip and beat me for fun. She gouged my eye out because she said I looked at her the wrong way. But the worst was the way she touched me. She raped me more times than I could count. I couldn’t fight her off; she gave me drugs that would...would enable her to have her way with me, even though I wasn’t willing. My body wouldn’t listen to me. The feeling of being used like that.... I can’t describe it; nothing can describe the shame and humiliation. I wanted to die so much, but I had to get revenge.”
“Please tell me it doesn’t get worse,” younger Link begged.
The older Link shook his head. “No, nothing could be worse than that. But I got the upper hand eventually. It took a long time. The war started about ten years from now. I was that woman’s sex slave for fifteen years after that. But I was able to escape. It was pure luck. You see, that mind control nectar was extracted from a rare kind of plant. It’s very hard to find, and producing the drug was very difficult and time-consuming. There was a long drought, and the plants mostly died off. Their stockpiles ran low, and their army started dying. Once someone starts taking the nectar, they will die if they quit.
“Koros’s soldiers were dying out. Even her most loyal followers left her. They were those evil spirits I mentioned. They inhabit healthy people and take over their bodies. But when it was apparent that Koros was losing control, they left back to where they’d come from. I saw my chance and I took it. I organized a rebellion among the slaves, the ones whose minds weren’t taken over. We killed the rest of the super-soldiers, and I captured my prize. I had Koros in my possession. Once she was taken captive, she lost control of her soldiers, and they all committed suicide. It had taken about sixteen years, but we won the war. And I would have my revenge.
“I had it all planned out. The people wanted me to rule them, but I declined. I couldn’t be a ruler. My final revenge was supposed to be my final peace. The next morning I was going to execute her personally. I was going to give her a death that would make what happened to Malon, Solo, and Zelda pale in comparison. Then after that, I would return home to the Kokiri Forest. I was going to sit in front of the dead Great Deku Tree, where I had buried all the Kokiri, and kill myself. Once I’d gotten my revenge, I could die in peace. After all, I had nothing else to live for.”
“I take it that things didn’t go as planned,” younger Link said.
Older Link smiled darkly. “Things changed. I had a dream. In this dream I saw myself. It was like us right now. I was speaking to a younger version of myself. He told me that he could help me, that things could be fixed. I don’t know what changed in me, but I had a new will to live. I needed to find out why Koros did what she did. She wouldn’t give up her information easily, so I did the only thing I could: I tortured her. You wouldn’t believe how good it felt to make her suffer for her sins. I knew that by what I was doing, I was sinking to her level. But I didn’t care. It felt too good. It took a year, but I got the information I needed.
“She wasn’t just some crazy Gerudo bent on world domination. She was working for Ganondorf.”
Young Link’s eyes went wide. “But I took care of him! He’s sealed in the Sacred Realm, never to escape.”
“You’re forgetting that the power of that Sacred Realm is limited, just as the power of the false Triforce is limited. It’s only a matter of time before he escapes and is reincarnated to wreak havoc.”
“So what does this Koros have to do with it?” young Link asked.
“She was Ganondorf’s lover and most loyal follower. From what I could extract from her, she was peparing Hyrule for his return. Those evil spirits that took over people’s bodies were the remains of his loyal followers. They came from your timeline and the alternate one. Together with Koros, they would break the seal on the Door of Time and free Ganondorf from the false Sacred Realm. That was her plan, but she didn’t count on one factor: me.”
“So you stopped her plan from coming to fruition?” young Link asked.
“I did it without even knowing it. My mere presence threw off her plan. I wondered for so long why I skipped ten years of my life. It took a lot of torture, but I found out. She knew that I would fight her and screw up her plans. She tried to remove me from the timeline. My possession of the Triforce of Courage, even if it was the false one, would prevent her from going through with her plans. The other two Triforce pieces had to be free so she could capture them and use them to break the seal to the Sacred Realm. She figured that she could simply kill Zelda to extract her piece. But I was a different story.
“I have knowledge of both timelines, and somehow that connects me to both worlds. If I was killed, then the Triforce would migrate to the future I left behind, and would be taken over by another hero. The only way that I could be taken out of the equation was to remove me from time itself.”
“How did she plan on doing it?” young Link asked. Without the Master Sword and Spiritual Stones, Koros shouldn’t have been able to mess with the fabric of time.
“She discovered a time device. It’s in a very deep cavern, near the Temple of Truth in Kataan. Nobody knows who built it, or how long it’s been there. It was so well hidden that the Guardians didn’t even know of its existence. How Koros and Ganondorf discovered it, I’ll never know. But she wasn’t smart enough, she didn’t know how to use the device. The device has the capability of removing a person from time, but it can also enable people to travel through time. She used the device incorrectly. Instead of removing me, she sent me ten years into the future. And my very presence ensured that her plans would ultimately fail.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t try to remove you again when she found out you were still here,” younger Link said.
“It was because of my time aura. It’s a property of the time device. You can only be removed from the timeline if your aura matches the timeline you’re in. But mine didn’t match, so she couldn’t remove me. And because she was native to the timeline, she couldn’t go back to fix her mistake. And that one mistake is what gave me hope. Unfortunately, she didn’t tell me any more. I was more than happy to kill her though.
“I had to study the time device for quite some time before I could figure out how to use it. Koros never thought that anyone could defeat her, so she became overconfident. She left her notes in the cavern, and I was able to use those combined with my own knowledge to learn how to use the time device. That’s how I managed to get here. And that’s what brings me to you.”
The younger Link felt a headache coming on. He didn’t think he’d ever had so much information dumped on him all at once. All this talk about time travel, combined with the horrible tales of the future, made him want to scream in frustration. “I don’t think I can take much more,” complained the younger Link. “My life has turned completely upside-down by somehow traveling ten years into the future. Then and older version of myself comes back in time and tells me this absolutely horrible and terrifying tale of the future that frankly makes we want to puke. And there’s still more? Can’t it wait another day? I can barely absorb all this right now, I can’t take any more.”
The older Link stared right into young Link’s eyes. “There is no time. I have to tell you everything right now, all at once. If you cram it all into your head, you’ll be more likely to remember all of it when you go back.”
“Wait a minute,” young Link interrupted. “Go back where?”
“Go back to the time you came from. You have to stop this from ever happening. You’re the only one who can do it.”
“What if I can’t...”
“You must!” the older Link shouted. He pointed an angry finger at his younger self. “There is no other choice! You will do this! I saw my country destroyed, I saw my closest friends and family horribly murdered. I was raped for years! Now I’ve found a way to fix it all. It might not work, but any future is better than the living hell I came from. Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t give up your life a thousand times to save them. I would, and I know you would too.”
The younger Link sighed. “You’re right. I would. But why me? Why can’t you do it?”
“Because, I already explained it to you. Two copies of the same person cannot exist at the same time. I can’t go with you. You are free to return, because your time aura will match the timeline. I have to go back where I came from, and so do you. Everything will be up to you.”
“I’m starting to lose count of how many times that’s happened,” the younger Link muttered. “I’ll do whatever I have to do. But I have to say goodbye before I leave…”
“No,” the older Link interrupted. “There is no time. We have to go to the time device and I have to explain it to you before I return to my time. There’s no time for simple pleasantries.”
“We can’t even wait till the morning?” younger Link asked. If he was going to travel through time, then a few extra hours shouldn’t make much of a difference. It would also give him more time to prepare.
The older Link shook his head emphatically. “No, we don’t have that much time. Actually, I don’t have much time. Learning how to use the time device in such a short amount of time took more energy than a normal person could ever have. I cheated...I used the nectar of the gods--or more specifically--a derivative of it. It expanded my ability to learn and understand. But I ran out of it three days ago, and just like the other nectar, quitting it means death. It doesn’t matter now if I got more, I’m past the point of no return. I’m dying.”
Young Link couldn’t believe it. Not only was he burdened with preventing a horrible chain of events from occurring, the only man who could help him was going to die. It really was all up to him. “How much longer do you have?”
“Less than a day. Which is why time is of the essence. We have to go now.”
Link was ready. “All right, fine. Let’s go. But it’ll take several hours to get there by horse…”
“There’s no need for that,” older Link said. He stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out an oblong object. It was slightly rounded in the back and flat on the front. The front was a shiny black with tiny multi-colored lights. “This will take us there instantly. Think of it like playing your ocarina to warp somewhere.” The younger Link nodded. He was ready. “Let’s do it.” The older Link pressed him thumb to the front of the device and there was a quiet beep. A bright glow enveloped everything around them, until all they could see was white. Link closed his eyes instinctively. He felt a strange tingling sensation, like his whole body was buzzing. A giant whoosh of air followed and the buzzing stopped.
Link opened his eyes, and saw that he was no longer in his house. He was inside a huge hemispherical dome that was at least a thousand feet wide and several hundred feet tall. Everything was bathed in a harsh white light that seemed to come from everywhere at once, illuminating everything perfectly evenly. There were desks and chairs everywhere, arranged in neat rows. Positioned on pedestals everywhere were rectangular objects that were several feet wide, but only about an inch thick. They had the same glossy black appearance as the older Link’s pocket device, but there were no lights on them. What really caught Link’s attention was the giant pedestal in the center of the room. There was a raised metal platform about forty feet in diameter surrounded by what he could only describe as a circular shelf. The shelf was about four feet high and almost completely surrounded the platform, save for a small gap, presumably to let people through.
“That is the time device,” older Link said, pointing to the platform. “The shelf surrounding it is the main control panel. It has two hundred and fifty thousand controls. Luckily for us, only a couple hundred need to be modified. It’s already set for me to return to my time. I will teach you how to program it to return you to your time. I have complete notes, including translations of numbers and words that you’ll need to know.”
He showed Link a small section of the control panel, which was a huge array of tiny rectangular objects in slots. Each slot glowed, some were red, and others were green. The older Link continued his explanation. “From what I understand, these rectangles control what time the device will send you to.” He pulled one of the rectangles out of its slot and showed it to Link. It was mostly clear, with tiny black lines and squiggles covering it. Older Link pointed out a square notch cut out of the rectangle. “See this little notch? If it’s up, then the light will be green. If you turn it upside down, the light will be red. It can be put in the hole in any direction, only the notch being up or down makes a difference. All you have to do is rearrange these rectangles.”
The older Link unrolled a large piece of paper that was sitting on the shelf and showed it to Link. On it was a drawing depicting the array of rectangles, represented by red or green marks. He showed Link another sheet that contained lists of writing in the foreign language along with the translations. The older Link showed his younger counterpart all of the rectangles he would have to change, and how to change them. He drilled Link on the foreign markings, forcing him to memorize them. Link learned it quickly, and he practiced all the changes he would have to make to send himself back in time. It only took a couple of hours for younger Link to learn what he needed to know.
“What do I do after I get back?” younger Link asked. “Do I have to find that woman?”
“That would be a good idea, but it isn’t the first thing you need to do. When you’re sent back, you won’t arrive at the machine, you’ll most likely end up somewhere near your house. It will act as a very strong magnet to you. I don’t know why, that’s just the way it is. The good part is that you will have more time once you get back home. Although your being mistakenly sent to the future is the focal point of the whole series of events, it’s not the key event. She will use the machine again, but not for time travel. She’ll use it to free the evil spirits from a kind of spiritual limbo. They are stuck in a place between this world and the Sacred Realm. After Ganondorf was banished, his followers were cast out of this world, but not sealed in the Sacred Realm. The spirits exist outside of time, in the same place Koros wanted to send you. She’s going to use the machine to bring those spirits back. She won’t know that you’re back in your own time. You will have the element of surprise.”
“How do I defeat her and prevent all those horrible things from happening?” the younger Link asked.
“You have to destroy the time device,” the older Link replied. “If you can prevent Koros from freeing the evil spirits, then none of what I told you will come to pass. She may be extremely smart and clever, but she’s still just a pawn. Without the knowledge of the spirits, she won’t be able to make the nectar, and won’t be able to amass an army. Her plan will fail before she knows something is wrong.”
Link looked around at the sheer size of the room. Nothing he knew of could possibly destroy a place this big. And it could’ve been there for thousands of years. If the ravages of time couldn’t destroy it, then what could? “That will be more difficult. This thing is probably designed to withstand huge explosions, so anything you could make wouldn’t work. The idea I had was to remove all those rectangle things and destroy them. Wreak havoc in this place. Destroy anything you can. Push buttons and pull levers to screw it up. I think this place might have some kind of self-destruct or something, but I haven’t figured it out. I don’t know enough of the foreign language to understand what’s in all the books here. You might be able to figure it out. What’s important is that you stop Koros from using this machine. You have at most a year; that’s how long it took her to figure out how to free the evil spirits. But the sooner you destroy this place, the better.”
“I have to kill Koros, don’t I?” younger Link asked bluntly.
The older Link nodded. “Yes. I know it sounds like murder, but it’s not. Think of the things she’s going to do; millions of people will die. And if you succeed, she’s still guilty of crimes from your time. She murdered many people before she ever set her eyes on you. You’ll be doing the world a favor.”
Link sighed. “Killing giant demons and monsters is one thing, but another person...I’ve never done that.”
“You must. This woman is not a person, she is a monster. She does not deserve mercy or pity. She wouldn’t have mercy on anyone else. The moment you start thinking about her as a person, she kills you. Do you understand everything I told you? Do you know what you have to do?”
The younger Link nodded. “I’ll do it. I’ll do anything I need to make sure everyone is safe.”
Older Link handed him the small pocket device that he’d used to teleport to the time machine. “Use this to go back and forth between your home and the time machine.” He patted his younger self on the shoulder. “I have faith in you. I am you and I know you’ll do the right thing.”
Then Link thought of something his older self didn’t mention. “Wait, what does Koros look like?”
The older Link smiled. “I knew you’d ask that. Come here.” He held out his hand and touched it to Link’s face. “Relax and open your mind.” Link relaxed and suddenly an image of a Gerudo woman flashed into his mind. If he didn’t know any better, he would swear that she was standing right in front of him. Her wicked face seared itself into his memory as if he’d known her all his life.
Link leaned back and took a huge, shuddering breath. “How did you do that?”
“You’ll learn in time. But you saw her, right?”
“Yes. I can’t forget an image like that. I could feel...I could feel everything. All the hate and anger, and the evil that came off her.”
“Then I’m done here,” the older Link said solemnly. “You must succeed in your mission. And make sure you take all of my notes with you. When you wake up, it’ll seem like this is all a dream. You won’t forget, but it might be difficult to retrieve the memories at first. Work on remembering your mission. The notes will help you. You can’t fail.”
“I won’t fail,” Link said vehemently. His older self hugged him and walked on to the time machine platform. “What will you do when you get back?”
The older Link shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I might not have a future to return to. But I can’t stay here. I might cease to exist, I might return to a normal life, or it might be the same for me. I don’t know if I’ll go back and still remember everything or not. I might just merge into your future self, and I will have no memory of this. But you will have a memory, because you’ll be the one making the change, thereby altering the world I came from. It doesn’t really matter to me anymore, my life is over. I hope that everything will change for the better, if not, I’m going home to die in peace. Whatever happens, I at least know that just sending you back will change things for the better.”
Link went to the glowing blue circle on the panel that older Link had pointed out to him earlier. All he had to do was wave his hand over the light, and it would take his future self back to where he came from. “Are you ready?”
The older Link took a deep breath and nodded. “Good luck. I have faith in you.”
Link waved his hand over the blue panel and a low hum filled the giant room. The humming noise turned into a high-pitched whine, which grew steadily louder until a bright blue light engulfed the platform older Link was on. A pillar of light shot up to the ceiling and expanded from the center of the platform all the way to the edge. The machine emitted a loud roar, then everything stopped. The light and sound vanished in an instant, along with the older Link, who was gone.
Link hoped that the future his counterpart returned to a better world. Link followed his instructions exactly, and rearranged the little rectangles so that the machine would send him home. He checked, double-checked, and checked again to make sure that he was correct. It took a couple hours, but all the rectangles were in their correct positions and he was ready to go. His main fear was that his counterpart had gotten his information wrong, and that this bizarre machine would send him to the wrong place or time. But his older self was successful in coming to see him, so logically he would know what he was doing better than the younger Link.
Link gathered all of the older one’s notes and papers, and put them in a bag that he found on a desk. Link thought carefully for a moment, and decided to take as much stuff as he could. His older self had told him to study the books and manuals laying around to see if he could learn anything. But what worried him was that maybe those books wouldn’t be there in the past. They were here now, but he didn’t know if simply traveling back to his own time could change things. He had no qualms about messing with this timeline, because he was going to change the future anyways. Link wandered around the room and grabbed all the books he could and dumped them on the platform. He had no idea what the books contained, or even if they had anything to do with the machine.
Then Link stumbled onto something strange. It was a small book, but this one wasn’t written in the strange foreign language; it was written in Kokiri. The cover of the book said The Hero of Time. He had no idea what to think. Why would a book, written in the language of the Kokiri, be sitting in a building that contained a time machine? He wondered if maybe the older Link had left this here and he just forgot to tell him. He curiously opened the book, but found only empty pages. He flipped and flipped only to find blank page after blank page. Then he finally found a single page with writing on it, and it didn’t have much. He read what was written on the page.
You are getting close, but your mission is far from complete. You will become the hero of another time, on a journey that no one will remember. No matter how hard it gets, remember that I’m here for you and I won’t leave you behind.
Link was confused by the strange words, which he was quite sure were directed at him. After all, he was the only Hero of Time that he knew about. His intuition told him that this book was important, far more important than anything else here. The words didn’t tell him much, but it was the feeling it gave him that made him deem it important. Perhaps it was his imagination, but he felt a strange sense of reassurance and confidence when he touched the book. Since it was fairly small, he stuck it securely in the pouch hanging from his belt.
Link decided that he’d gathered enough books; had a pile stacked about three feet high, and six feet wide. There must have been at least a hundred huge, heavy books. Link went back to the panel with the little rectangles and checked one more time to make sure it was right. Next to the blue panel that activated the machine was an array of buttons with the ancient writing on them. The writing was numbers, and the older Link had told him that touching the buttons in a specific sequence would put the machine on a timer, so he could activate it and get on the platform before it warped anything back in time. Link said a silent prayer for guidance, something he rarely did and punched in the sequence of numbers. The blue panel lit up, which meant that the machine was ready.
Link waved his hand over the blue light and a loud voice boomed from every direction at once. It was in the foreign language that he couldn’t understand, and the regularity of the words meant that it was counting down the seconds. Link ran to the center of the platform and stood at the center, waiting for the machine to take him home. The voice went silent, and a low hum filled the room just as before. It grew into a whine and Link suddenly felt a jolt as the blue light engulfed him. He couldn’t sense his body anymore; he could still see, hear, and feel, but every other sense that he was a physical being faded away. It was like he was floating like a cloud.
The blue light grew blinding, but in a sudden whoosh, he was pulled backwards at enormous speed, and the light faded into a blue point. Suddenly he was engulfed in some kind of tunnel, the walls of which looked like the surface of a rippling pond. The tunnel twisted and turned as he flew backwards through it at an amazing speed. It would’ve made him feel sick to his stomach, but he couldn’t feel his stomach. Beyond the walls of the tunnel, he could see points of light pass by, some of which grew to enormous size as he approached them. The lights became giant, seething balls of energy in every color of the rainbow. Link worried that he would run into the giant balls, which were so enormous that they filled his entire field of vision. But he went by so fast that they were gone in seconds. The star-like lights suddenly disappeared and the tunnel faded away around him. A bright white light flared around him and a quiet whoosh of wind became a deafening roar. The light and noise grew until it overwhelmed his senses. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, everything went silent. The awareness of his body returned when he felt it slam into the ground, knocking the wind out of him. He looked around with blurry vision and saw leaves and trees. But the stress of his trip was too much and he passed out.
Link’s awareness slowly came back to him. He could hear the wind blowing and birds chirping around him. Link felt a strange sensation in his side, and he realized that something was poking him. He moaned and rolled over, and the poking continued on his back. “What’s going on?” he slurred, barely able to talk.
“You just fell out of the sky, Link,” replied a cheery girl’s voice. “Are you hurt?”
That was a good question. He sat up and tried to keep his head from spinning. He felt a little sore, but nothing else seemed to be amiss. His eyes focused on the source of the voice and he saw that it was a little Kokiri girl standing before him. She was holding a stick, which must have been what she poked him with. “Um...I think I’m all right,” Link mumbled.
“That’s good,” she said happily. “You just appeared in a flash of light and fell. I was worried when it started raining huge books, I thought one might hit you.”
“Books?” Link asked, dumbfounded. He looked around him and saw books of all sizes scattered everywhere. “Where did all these come from?”
“I don’t know. You fell down and all these books came after you. I’ve never seen that before.”
“Yeah, me neither,” Link said dryly. He looked at one of the books, but couldn’t recognize the language it was written in. Something bothered him about this situation, the books especially. A thought at the back of his mind picked at him, but he couldn’t bring it to the front. “Books, books...” he mumbled to himself.
“Are these yours?” the girl asked. “I know you like books. Did you find some new spell to make it rain books?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, I’ll help you pick them up. But I don’t think you’ll have any room in your house. Solo probably wouldn’t like that. And everybody’s been wondering where you went. You’ve been missing since yesterday.”
You’ve been missing... That phrase sounded significant for some reason. He seemed to remember something about being missing. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it though. The girl struggled trying to pick up on of the huge books, and she frowned when she dropped it. “Link, these books are too big. Maybe Solo can help, she’s big and strong. You could put these in your little Epona house; it’s nice weather, she won’t need it.”
A shout came from a distance away and Link looked around to determine its source. A tall girl with blonde hair was running toward them, shouting his name. Link recognized the girl as his sister. She ran into him and hugged him tightly. “Link, where have you been?” she asked, her voice laced with both worry and annoyance.
Link’s face looked like he was concentrating on something, but couldn’t figure it out. “I don’t know,” he replied. “How long have I been missing? Only a day?”
“Yeah,” Solo said, giving him a weird look. She looked him over and felt all over his head with her hand. “Did you hit your head? You need to lie down.”
“He fell out of the sky,” the Kokiri girl said matter-of-factly.
“Where did all these books come from?” Solo asked.
“They fell from the sky with Link.”
Solo looked at the girl, then at Link, wondering if they were both crazy. Link shrugged his shoulders. “I know something happened, but I’m not sure,” he said. “I just remember waking up on the ground with her poking me.”
Solo looked at the girl. “Go get Saria and tell her that Link just showed up.” The girl nodded and ran off. “Link, are you sure you’re okay?”
“I feel all right, but I just don’t remember. All I remember is buying some flowers on the way to see Zelda, and then I woke up here. But...” he trailed off.
“But what?” Solo prodded.
“Something happened...but I’m not sure. It has something to do with being missing, but it was longer than a day. And something bad happened...and these books are significant somehow.”
“You need to lie down. I can shovel these books in the stable, I guess. It’s clean. There’s no way I’m letting you pile our house to the ceiling with this stuff.” Solo picked up one of the books and flipped through it. “What language is this? Do you even understand this?”
Link looked at a page and shook his head. “I don’t know what that says.”
Solo was exasperated. “Then why did you get a bunch of books that you can’t even read?”
“I don’t know! But they’re important, I can feel it. There’s something important about the books, and why I was gone. I’m sure it’ll come to me.”
Saria came running towards them, and she immediately went to work examining Link for injuries. “Are you all right?” Saria asked in a worried tone. “Hoshi says you fell out of the sky along with a bunch of books.” Saria didn’t usually take Hoshi very seriously, because she had the tendency to tell wildly exaggerated stories. But Saria wondered if Hoshi was actually being serious this time, seeing as there were dozens of books scattered everywhere. “Link, why do you have all these books?”
“I don’t know,” he said for the umpteenth time, growing frustrated. “But don’t get rid of them; I know they’re important for something.”
Saria rolled her eyes, thinking that Link had some weird scheme going again. “Fine, we’ll put them away. But I want you to lie down for a little while. You could be hurt and not know it.” Saria gave him her cute puppy-dog face, and he relented.
“Fine. I guess I could use some rest.” He bent over and picked up a couple books, but Solo took them away from him.
“No, not for you,” she said sternly, swatting his hands away. “You need rest. I’ll take care of this stuff.” She looked at all the books and shook her head. “Though why you would get a bunch of books you can’t even read, I’ll never know.” Solo kept muttering to herself and Saria led Link to his house. He climbed up the ladder and plopped onto his bed with a groan.
“I just feel weird,” he said.
“You must’ve hit your head pretty hard,” Saria said, taking Link’s boots and clothes as he shed them. “If you can’t remember anything, then I’m going to take that as a sign of injury. You’re going to rest and later you can eat something. Maybe after you relax, your memories’ll come back.” Link nodded in agreement. Her logic always made sense to him when he was confused or unsure. “Did you cart in all of those books, or was Hoshi actually not exaggerating this time?”
Link put his hands over his face and let out a frustrated sigh. “Again with the books! I honestly don’t know where they came from. I don’t remember bringing them here. And there’s no horse and carriage here, so maybe I did fall out of the sky.” Link racked his brain, trying desperately to pull forward the memories that he knew were there. Then an image popped into his head. “I remember a huge room...It was gigantic. I couldn’t see from one end to the other. And there was this...thing in the middle...some kind of platform or something. There was a pile of books on it, then I got on it for some reason. Then I saw a tunnel, and I was flying through it...” He trailed off as he sorted through the images in his head. “That’s it. I fell on my back and I woke up with Hoshi poking me.”
Saria silently wondered if Link was describing a dream, actual events, or a combination of both. “You didn’t remember anything at all a few minutes ago. See, you’re already making progress. Get some rest and maybe more will come to you.”
Link sat up suddenly and looked at Saria with worry. “What about Zelda? I was supposed to meet her. She’s probably worried sick. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s send out search parties; you know how she is...”
“Calm down, Link. She’ll be fine. Solo will go get her. You concentrate on relaxing. We’ll worry about everything else.” Link nodded and rolled over in his bed, trying to find a comfortable position. As strange as he felt right now, he had a feeling that it would only get more strange as time went on.
“So a bunch of books came out of nowhere, and Link doesn’t even know where they came from?” Zelda asked with a chuckle. She and Solo had just arrived in the forest, and were dismounting their horses. The horses were well-behaved, so they were allowed to roam free until they were needed.
“That’s not the weird part,” Solo said. Zelda raised her eyebrows in question. “They’re in a foreign language.”
“Okay...that’s kind of strange. But Link’s done a lot of weird things before. Maybe he has some kind of scheme in mind.” Despite the bizarre circumstances, Zelda was glad that Link was okay. When he hadn’t met her as planned she got worried and immediately assumed the worst. But her father had been the voice of reason, and insisted that she wait in case Link had forgotten or overslept. She had been just about to come to the forest herself when Solo had shown up.
“And Hoshi says that Link and the books both fell out of the sky,” Solo continued.
“Fell out of the sky, huh?” Zelda thought for a moment. It sounded impossible, but Link had done many impossible things. “Maybe he finally got the hang of that teleportation thing. You have to admit, it would be useful for hauling things.”
Solo shook her head. “No, I don’t think he’s mastered that quite yet. The strange thing about him appearing out of nowhere is that he doesn’t know where he was. He has amnesia or something.”
They climbed up the ladder and entered Link’s house. He was wide awake, sitting up on his bed, enduring Saria’s babying. “Really, Saria, I feel fine. You don’t have to spoon-feed me,” he insisted. Now that Zelda and Solo were there, his masculine pride was injured. He would let Saria coddle him when they were alone, but with his sister and his girlfriend present, it only made him feel extremely embarrassed. He wouldn’t admit it to anyone though.
Zelda giggled when she saw the faint blush creep up his cheeks. She went over to him and kissed him. “It’s okay, Linkie-pooh. We won’t tell anyone.”
“Link secretly likes it,” Solo whispered to Zelda, purposely loud enough for Link to hear. He folded his arms over his chest and muttered something unintelligible.
Link scooted over and Zelda sat down next to him. “Solo told me what happened,” she said. “How are you feeling now? Do you remember anything more?” Link told Zelda the same story he’d told Saria before he fell asleep.
“I don’t remember anything else,” Link added. “But I’m sure it’ll come back to me.”
Saria poked Zelda to get her attention, then handed her one of the smaller books Link had found. “Is this one of the books you bought?” asked Zelda. Link nodded. She flipped through the pages and examined them casually. “This doesn’t look like any language I’ve ever seen. But we could always take it to the University to see if someone there can read this.”
“No!” Link shouted, startling everyone. “Don’t show these to anybody. I have a bad feeling about that. Nobody should see these.”
His friends stood in silence, baffled by Link’s sudden outburst. Solo broke the silence, “All right Link. We’ll keep them safe.”
“Thank you,” Link said. “I know those are important for some reason. I’ll figure it out though. Whatever happened to me happened for a reason, and I’ll get to the bottom of it. But until I can remember more, I guess there isn’t anything we can do. I’m sick of weird things happening to me. I want to be normal.”
“Okay,” Solo said. “Let’s be normal and have something to eat. I’m starving.”
“Me too,” Link added. “Forget the books. I want some food.” As was their ritual, everyone went to Saria’s house for a meal. Link hoped he would remember something, because he knew it was important. But he figured that it couldn’t be that important; he would’ve remembered if it was.
A young man of about sixteen years hesitantly entered the Lon Lon Ranch, after walking all the way from the castle village. He had very fine, straight black hair that was shoulder-length and tied into a ponytail. He wasn’t as tall as the other boys his age; he was about five feet, eight inches. His skin was a slightly darker color than the people in the area, resembling a suntan, but of a more olive or yellowish shade. The most obvious features marking him as a foreigner, or at least of foreign descent, were his eyes and ears. His eyes were a little narrower than the average Hylian, and they looked almost slanted. His ears weren’t pointy, but not round either; they were somewhere in between.
The boy held a piece of paper in his hand; it was an old ad posted in the town square that asked for help at the Lon Lon Ranch. He hoped that the position hadn’t been filled yet, because he could use the job. He looked around and saw horses and other farm animals wandering around, but no people. He wondered if he should walk around and find somebody, or knock on the door of the house. Before he could make a decision, a very pretty red-headed girl exited the barn while whistling a happy tune. She noticed the slightly nervous young man and approached him, smiling sweetly. “Hello,” she said politely. “Welcome to Lon Lon Ranch. How can I help you?” The boy only stared at her, not saying anything.
The boy couldn’t help it. Every time he saw a pretty girl, he would forget what he was going to say. He had to say something or this girl would think he was crazy. “I...uh...” He showed the paper to her. “I’m here about the job as a...what’s it called?” He paused when his mind went blank. “Oh yeah! Ranch hand, that’s it.”
Malon smiled. “Oh, that’s great. We could use the help. That ad’s been up for years, but no one has answered it. Come with me, we’ll go talk to my dad about hiring you.” Malon led him toward the house but stopped suddenly, and the boy almost collided with her. He had been too busy staring at her swaying hips. “I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Malon.” She extended her hand and the boy shook it firmly.
“My name is Railan,” the boy said. “I’d really like to work here. It looks nice.”
Malon led him into the house, and he followed more carefully this time. “Hey Daddy!” she bellowed, startling Railan. There was a creaking and thumping noise coming from upstairs, and he finally came downstairs.
“What is it dear?” he asked frantically, worried that something was wrong.
“Sorry, I thought your were asleep. This is Railan, he’s here to be a ranch hand.” She introduced him to her father and they shook hands.
Talon looked the boy over, silently judging him. “You look like a nice, strong boy. Can you ride a horse?”
“Yes, sir,” Railan replied. “I can lift heavy things too. I’ll do whatever you need. I can work as late as you want.”
Talon smiled. “Well, you’re certainly eager. And since you’re the only person who’s responded to the ad, I’ll hire you.” Railan’s eyes lit up. “You’re responsible, aren’t you?”
“Yes sir. I take care of my little sister at home, and I help my mother with housework. I wanted this job so I could help my family. We just moved here a week ago, so we’re still settling in. My mother will be so happy to hear this.” His smile faded a little bit. “You are hiring me, right sir?”
“Sure. Unless you have a reason why I shouldn’t.”
“No, sir,” Railan replied. “I’m responsible. I’ll do anything you need.”
“Excellent. You’re hired. I’ll give you three hundred rupees a week, and more if I need you to do extra work. Be here at about eight in the morning. Your job will be to help Malon with the chores. Can you start today?” Railan nodded eagerly. “Great. Go with Malon, she’ll show you how to do everything.”
“Thank you sir.”
Malon escorted Railan outside and gave him a tour of the ranch. When they passed by a cluster of clucking chickens, one of them took a liking to him and started following him. Railan didn’t say anything at first, but grew increasingly annoyed as the chicken kept chasing him. “Um, is it normal for them to do that?” he asked.
Malon looked behind her and noticed the hen following him. Malon laughed. “Don’t worry about that. She’ll get bored sooner or later.” Malon stared at the hen and it clucked at her. “Don’t you have some eggs to lay?” The chicken didn’t understand. “Just ignore them.” Malon stopped the tour at the stable, where some of the horses and cows were lounging. He immediately noticed a beautiful blonde girl with amazingly long hair brushing a horse in the back of the stable. She was affectionately pampering the horse while she talked to it in a voice usually reserved for talking to babies. “This is my friend Solo. She doesn’t officially work here, but she likes to help out.”
Solo was snapped out of her trance at the mention of her name. She hadn’t even seen Malon come in, and she didn’t know who the boy was that followed her. “Hi Malon. Who’s this guy?” She gave Railan a stern look.
“This is Railan. He’s the new ranch hand. We just hired him.”
Solo’s face instantly changed from wary to cheery. She reached out and shook his hand. “Hi! I’m Solo, Malon’s friend. You look like a nice boy. I hope you like horses, because they’ll know if you’re scared of them. Malon is giving you the tour, isn’t she? You’ll probably get stuck cleaning out the stables first. That’s the worst job.” Solo realized she was rambling and shut up. “I’m sorry, I didn’t even let you talk.”
“You’re really pretty,” Railan said. Then he realized that he’d said that out loud, and felt like an idiot. He really had to learn how to think and not speak it out loud. The girls, however, found it hilarious and giggled madly.
“Well, thank you,” Solo said.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be inappropriate,” Railan said. “I just thought out loud.”
“You don’t have to apologize for complimenting me. I’ll leave you two alone, I’m sure Malon needs to explain more stuff to you or something. I’ll just get back to Cookie here.” Solo went back to brushing her horse.
Malon led Railan outside, and was about to assign some chores to him when she stopped. “Oh, I forgot. You need some work gloves. I don’t want you to get blisters. I’m sure Daddy has an extra pair in the house somewhere. Just wait here, I’ll be right back.” Malon ran to her house and Railan stood there, waiting for her to return. He leaned against the barn and waited patiently.
He looked over and saw a young man in bizarre green clothes ride into the ranch on a brown horse. He dismounted the horse and it trotted off to the corral to eat some grass. The man in green looked around for someone or something, and his eyes landed on Railan. He approached with a questioning look. “Hello, sir,” said Railan formally. This guy might be a customer, so Railan had to be polite. “Can I help you? Are you a customer? I can go get Miss Malon for you.”
Link gave him a confused look and scratched his head. “Um...I don’t mean to be rude but, who are you?”
“I’m Railan, the ranch hand. I’m sorry, they just hired me today, so I don’t know everything here yet. I’m sure I can get someone to help you.”
“Oh no, that’s okay,” Link said casually. “I’m not a customer. I’m a friend of Malon’s. I’m Link, it’s nice to meet you.” Link shook Railan’s hand. “I’m glad to see that somebody finally came for the job. Malon gets ashamed if me or Solo try to help her too much. She doesn’t want her friends doing the work because we won’t accept payment. So where is Malon anyways?”
Railan pointed to the house. “She went inside to get some work gloves for me.”
Link cringed. “Oh, I’m sorry. That means she’s gonna make you clean the stables.”
Railan shrugged his shoulders. “I guess that’s what I signed up for. I’ve cleaned up after horses before, so it shouldn’t be too bad. Besides, a lady shouldn’t have to do a job like that.”
“You seem like a nice guy. I think you’ll do just fine here. You’re already better than the last man who worked here. He was always in a bad mood.”
Railan didn’t know who the last ranch hand was that worked there, but he must’ve been terrible judging by the way that everyone avoided talking about him. “Well, I’m good-natured, so there shouldn’t be a problem.” Railan worried that everyone would compare him to the last ranch hand, and he didn’t know if that was good or bad. “Was the last guy a bad worker? I’m different. I’ll work hard.”
“He wasn’t the worst worker in the world, but he had a bad attitude. They wouldn’t fire him because he usually did the work. They finally got rid of him when he hit Malon.”
Railan’s eyes went wide. “What? That’s terrible! I don’t even know her, but I can tell she’s a nice girl. How could someone hit a girl like that?”
Link shrugged his shoulders sadly. “Some people are bad. When Solo saw that, she beat the crap out of him. So he got what he deserved.” Railan felt relieved when he heard that. “Anyways, speaking of Solo, have you seen her? She’s a girl about my height, with really, really long blonde hair.”
“Oh yeah, that really pretty girl. She’s in the barn brushing her horse.” Link gave him a wary look. “I’m sorry. Is she your girlfriend? I didn’t mean to sound like I’m interested in her or anything...not that she’s not worth being interested in. I just don’t want you to think that...” He was interrupted when Link started laughing. Railan had no idea what was so funny, but Link obviously thought something was hilarious. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing really. She’s my sister, not my girlfriend. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you; she’s already taken.”
Railan looked a little disappointed, but tried to hide it. “Oh...well, that’s fine. I wasn’t thinking about trying to date her or anything, that would be weird anyways because she’s my boss’s friend.”
“You’re not very good with women, are you?” Link asked bluntly.
Railan would’ve felt insulted if it weren’t true. “Yeah, you could say that.”
“I understand. I’m no expert, either. I’m lucky to have a girlfriend, but we’ve known each other for years. Our relationship kind of grew out of our friendship. I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do if I tried to get a girlfriend right now. I don’t understand women, and I don’t think they even understand themselves. All I know is that they like perfume and pretty things. And everything is ‘cute’. The rest I just figure out as I go along. It was nice meeting you, but I need to go fetch my sister.” They shook hands again and Link went to the barn to find Solo.
Link smiled when he saw Solo feeding her horse apples and carrots while holding a one-sided conversation with it. She probably got that habit from Malon. “I’m sorry Cookie, I ran out of honey. I promise I’ll give you some tomorrow,” Solo said to the horse. She patted the horse’s muzzle affectionately and it grunted at her.
“Are you finished?” Link asked. Solo glared at him as if he’d interrupted an important moment.
“What do you want? Cookie needs attention.” She rubbed the horse’s neck.
“I know your horse needs attention.” He rolled his eyes. “I just wanted to know if you were coming home tonight. Otherwise Saria is going to rearrange all your things.”
Solo looked at him like he was an idiot. “You came all the way over here to tell me that?”
“No, not really. I also wanted to say that Zelda wants us to come over to her place tomorrow for lunch. She says they got a shipment of some rare fancy food she wants to share with us.”
Solo gave a wary look and stuck out her tongue. “Uh oh, I hope it’s not those squid things again. Those were horrible. I’d rather eat bugs, at least those had a nice crunch.”
“Ugh, that’s nasty. But I agree, those squids weren’t very good. Zelda’s gonna meet us here, then we can go to the castle. She wants to stop by to get a new saddle Malon’s having made for her.”
“Oh yeah, I remember that,” Solo said. “She said the other one makes her butt hurt. I can understand that. I remember one time I rode on this nasty old saddle that was rough and hard, and my thighs got so irritated and I had this horrible rash...”
Link held up his hands to stop her. “Please don’t talk about a rash on your thighs. I don’t want to hear about that.” Solo giggled and he rolled his eyes at her. “So I guess you can stay here and I’ll see you tomorrow. I have to make sure that Saria doesn’t mess with my stuff. But I’ll let her know she can lose all of your things.” She stuck out her tongue at him. Link shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly and left.
He almost fell over laughing when he saw the predicament that Railan was in. Malon had made him feed the chickens and now he was standing in the middle of a huge flock of clucking chickens in a feeding frenzy; and he looked scared to death. He caught sight of Link and waved frantically at him. “Hey! Dear goddesses, help me!”
Link felt sorry for him, but he couldn’t help laughing. He walked over to the flock of chickens and simply walked though them, nudging them away if he needed to. Link took the bucket from the frightened Railan and grabbed a large handful of kernels. He hurled the kernels away from him and the chickens immediately flocked to the new source of food. Link escorted him away and put the bucket back to where it belonged.
“Oh, thank you so much!” Railan said. “I thought they were going to kill me.” Link tried to stifle his laughter, but wasn’t doing very well. Railan gave an annoyed look. “You wouldn’t like it if you were attacked by chickens.”
Link finally quit laughing and caught his breath. “I’ve been attacked by them before. But those ones weren’t attacking you. They were just hungry.”
“Yeah, hungry for my flesh,” he said sarcastically.
“They couldn’t care less for you, they wanted the corn. Next time just walk through them, they’ll get out of the way.”
“Miss Malon didn’t tell me that. She just gave me a bucket and told me to feed the chickens.”
Link chuckled again, and tried to look serious when Malon walked over. She looked at both of them and wondered what was going on; Link was trying not to laugh and Railan wad red-faced and irritated. “What happened?” she asked. Link snorted and laughed again. Railan glared at him. “Did you feed the chickens?”
“They tried to kill me!” Railan insisted. “They were everywhere, I couldn’t escape.”
Malon’s eyes widened and she fought back a giggle. “I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you about that. Don’t worry, they’re harmless. I’d didn’t mean to scare you on your first day.”
“It’s all right,” Railan said. “What do you want me to do next?”
Malon thought for a moment. “Well, actually, there really isn’t much left to do. But there will be plenty of work tomorrow. Since I showed you everything, you’re free to go now.”
“Oh, okay. Um...thank you for the job, Miss.”
“Please, call me Malon. ‘Miss’ sounds too formal.” Railan nodded. “Oh wait! Do you have a way home? I wouldn’t want you to have to walk all that way.”
“Not really,” replied Railan. He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s no problem. I don’t mind walking.”
“Nonsense. You can borrow one of our horses. We rent them out all the time.”
“Well, thanks. I appreciate it. But...what do I do with the horse afterwards?”
Link replied, “There’s a public stable in the village, near the drawbridge. Malon owns a couple stalls there, and you can use one of those.”
“Yeah, hang on a minute,” Malon said, holding up her index finger. “I’ll go get you a pass so they let you use my stable.”
Malon ran off to the house to get the pass, and Link continued his explanation. “Most visitors will rent a stall for the night, but since Lon Lon Ranch owns a couple, you can use those.”
“Do I have to pay to rent the horse?”
Link shook his head. “Oh, no. Malon’s really nice, she wouldn’t charge you for that. Just know that she’ll do everything she can to baby you and take care of you. She does that to everyone.”
“Well, that’s nice of her. I just moved here, and people are friendly, but some of them seem distant. They assume that I don’t speak Hylian, and treat me like a child. It’s probably because I look foreign. My parents were from Kolona, but my sister and I were born in Hyrule.”
Link nodded, that would explain why he didn’t look like everyone else. “Kolona, that’s way up north, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s in the Northern Sea . It’s really cold there, from what my mother told me.”
“So how come your family came here?” asked Link.
“They wanted a better life for their children. Kolona isn’t exactly a poor country, but it’s not very rich either. They heard that they could make a better life in Hyrule because it was richer. My mama is a seamstress, and Hyrulians really liked the clothes and rugs she made because they looked ‘exotic’. We lived in the Northern Province until we moved here. Mama realized that she could make a much better living in Hyrule City than out in the middle of nowhere. There’s a much higher demand for exotic goods here, and people are willing to pay more. She’s already got enough orders for fancy clothes to keep her busy for a month.”
“That’s really nice,” Link said. “What does your father do?”
Railan’s face fell and Link wondered if he’d said something wrong. “He died not long after my sister was born. He worked as a soldier in the army’s northern regiment. One night he found some criminals trying to rape a woman, and as he fought them off, one of them managed to stab him. It wasn’t a very bad wound, but it got infected and he died. My family was devastated, but we were proud that he died saving an innocent woman’s honor. It’s been tough, because I’ve had to be the man of the family since I was eleven. That’s why I wanted this job so bad, so I could help support my mother and sister.”
Link really felt for him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”
Railan didn’t seem to mind. “It’s all right, you didn’t know. I just wished we’d moved here sooner. I already love it here. But I need to get familiar with the city.”
“I’ll follow you home and show you around,” Link offered. “I’ll show you where the stables are so you know where to put the horse.”
“Thanks a lot, I’d really appreciate that.”
Malon returned with the paper and gave it to Railan. “Sorry it took so long, I couldn’t remember where I put it. Just show it to the guard there and he’ll let you in. Come on, I’ll get you set up with the horse.” Railan and Link followed Malon to the stable. She went to a dark-brown stallion, that was lazily swatting flies with its tail. “This is Buddy. He’s a nice horse. He’s used to strangers, so you should have no problem with him.” Malon quickly and efficiently prepared the horse for riding.
Railan was impressed with Malon’s speed. From what he’d seen in the few hours he’d known her, she seemed to be good at everything. Malon finished and proudly led the horse out of the stable. “Wow, you’re good,” said Railan in amazement. “It would’ve taken me forever to do that, even if the horse was cooperating.” Railan put a foot in the stirrup and shakily mounted the horse. He settled himself into the saddle and tried to get a feel for the horse. “It’s been a while since I’ve ridden a horse, so I’m a little rusty.”
“It’s okay,” Malon said. “Buddy is used to all kinds of riders. He can almost read your mind. You’ll get used to him real quick.”
Railan decided to trust her judgment. He slowly led the horse out of the stable and was surprised when the horse took to him immediately. “Hey, this horse is great!” Railan called to Link, who was slowly catching up to him. “Where’d your horse go?” Railan asked when Link reached him.
“She’s over there,” Link said, pointing to the far side of the ranch where Epona was eating the blossoms off a rose bush. Link whistled and called out, “Hey Epona! Let’s go!” Epona stuck her head up and looked toward the source of the call. She recognized it as Link and galloped over to him. When she stopped in front of him, Link lovingly patted her and fed her a carrot.
“That’s amazing,” Railan exclaimed. “Your horse responds to her name?”
“Yes,” Link said proudly. “She’s really smart. I’m amazed myself sometimes.” Link hopped onto Epona and motioned for Railan to follow. “Let’s go, I’ll show you around town when we get there.”
Link and Railan had secured their horses in the stables, and set out to the town. “I really appreciate this,” Railan said. “I’ve been having trouble figuring things out. I didn’t realize this town was so big.”
“I know, it looks a lot smaller than it really is.” Link showed Railan around town, pointing out all of the good restaurants, which street vendors were fair and which were cheats, and all of the other points of interest. “There’s the shooting gallery. It’s a fun game. They won’t let me play for prizes there because I get a perfect score every time.”
Railan looked skeptical. “Oh come on, nobody gets a perfect score. Those games are rigged.”
“No, they’re not rigged. But you have to be a really good shot to win though. I have a lot of experience with slingshots, bows, and lots of other things.”
“What, are you training to be a knight?” Railan asked jokingly.
“No, I’m already a knight.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small badge that was engraved with the seal of the Royal Order of Hylian Knights.
“Is that real?”
“Of course it is,” Link replied, as if the answer was obvious. He handed it to Railan and he examined it with great interest.
“Wow, that’s really neat. I didn’t know someone my age could become a knight. I thought it took years of training to become a knight.”
“Usually it does. I mean, I’ve had sort of...informal training. I learned everything on my own mostly. But I was actually knighted as a reward for saving Zelda’s life. The king also gave me the Star of Nayru.” Link didn’t like to brag, so he made it sound like it was no big deal. He didn’t want to lose a potential new friend to jealousy.
“Wait a minute...Zelda?”
“Yeah, my girlfriend,” Link replied with a dreamy look. “I love her so much.”
“But why would the king give you a medal for saving your girlfriend...?” he trailed off. He tried to figure out why he would get a medal for something like that. It didn’t occur to him that it could be the princess. “Zelda, that’s the same name as the princess, right?” His eyes widened when he made the connection. “Wait a second, you’re not talking about Princess Zelda are you?” He shook his head. “That’s impossible.”
Link shuffled his feet, worried about what Railan would think of him if he told the truth, but he couldn’t lie. “Actually, she is the princess. I guess you would learn that sooner or later.”
Railan shook his head. “No way. You don’t seem like a rich aristocrat. How could a regular guy like you be in love with the princess?” Then Railan frowned. “Wait, you’re not one of those guys that claims to be in love with the princess, but is really only just a crazy stalker, are you?”
Link laughed. “No, no. It’s not like that. I really am her boyfriend. You’ll meet her sooner or later. I understand your skepticism, I wouldn’t believe me if our situation was reversed.”
Railan wasn’t sure if should believe Link or not. He decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. If Link was right, he would meet the girl sooner or later and find out for herself. “Well, I guess I believe you...”
“Just wait till you meet her.” Link tried to think of something else to say. “Um...that’s it for the town here. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow when I go over to the ranch.” Link started to walk away, but Railan stopped him.
“Wait.” Link stopped and turned around. “Why don’t you come to my house? I’ll introduce you to my family.” Railan hoped that he and Link could become friends, because he could use someone who knew his way around Hyrule. Link felt the same way; he hoped he could make a friend that was a guy, someone who understood him.
“All right. I have nothing else to do.”
Railan smiled and escorted him through the town, and down one of the side streets. He stopped in front of one of the many small townhouses, which looked just like all the others. “This is my house, come in.” He opened the door for Link and nudged him inside. The interior was fairly normal, there was a small living room with a fireplace and chairs, and a kitchen in the back. Bedrooms were on the second floor, and he heard some thumping noises from above. “Mama! Jamila! I’m home!” Railan bellowed. Link cringed, but Railan acted like it was normal.
The thumping from upstairs grew louder and a small girl rushed over to Railan and jumped into his arms. She looked a lot like him, and had the same pitch-black eyes and hair, except that her hair was much longer. “Hi Railan! Welcome home,” she said. She kissed him on the cheek and he set her back on the floor. She looked up at Link with curious eyes. “Who are you?”
“Hi, I’m Link,” he said, leaning over and patting her on the head.
“He’s my new friend,” Railan explained.
“Link is a funny name,” Jamila said. Link laughed at her typically childish words. She grabbed part of his tunic and felt it. “Your clothes look weird, but they feel nice. Do you like green? I don’t like green. Blue is my favorite color. Is green your favorite color?”
Link was going to respond, but Railan cut in, “Jamila, please don’t pester him. Go and play with your toys.”
Jamila looked at Link. “You wanna see my new dolly?”
“Um...I...” Link mumbled.
Railan nudged his sister away. “Go on. Shoo.” The girl ran off to the kitchen. “Come meet my mother.” Link followed Railan into the kitchen, where the little girl was pestering a kind-looking middle aged woman. She was short, and a little pudgy, but not fat. Her hair was cropped short, just about shoulder-length, and was streaked with gray. She was attempting to stir a pot on the stove while simultaneously keeping the little girl at bay.
“Did you get the job, darling?” asked the woman.
“Yes, mama,” Railan replied “The ranch is a really nice place, and the people that own it are great. They even lent me a horse to go back and forth to work.”
The woman looked at Link, as if she were assessing him. He suddenly felt nervous. “Who’s this?”
“This is Link. I met him at the ranch. He doesn’t work there, but he’s a friend of the owners. He was showing me around the town.”
“It’s nice to meet you, ma’am,” Link said politely.
“It’s nice to meet you too,” she said, gently shaking Link’s hand. “My name is Adara. I’m glad that Railan is making friends already.”
“Mama,” Railan whined. “Please, not in front of him.”
Link felt a little awkward, so he didn’t say anything. “So, where are you from?” Adara asked.
“I live in the Kokiri Forest,” he replied. The gave him blank looks. He forgot that they weren’t from around here, and would probably have never heard of the place. “It’s a forest southeast of here. It’s close, but it’s very secluded. Not many people have ever been there.”
“Living in a forest would be nice,” Railan commented. “Anyways, Mama, Link here knows just about everyone in town. He’s even a knight. He saved the princess’s life, and he says she’s his girlfriend too.”
Adara looked at Link with a skeptical eye. “Is that true?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Link replied. “I wouldn’t lie. I just hesitate to tell people because I don’t want them to assume I’m a snotty aristocrat or something. People tend to judge others before they know them.”
Adara had only known Link for a couple minutes, but she’d already decided she liked him. He seemed like a good and honorable young man, and she was usually a very good judge of character. “You look like a nice boy,” she said. Link was nervous meeting a new friend’s parents, and tried to not let it show. Adara also noticed that he and Railan were both glancing at the pot on the stove when they thought she wasn’t paying attention. “Boys will be boys.” They both gave her confused looks. “You’re both looking at the food. Don’t think I don’t know that look.”
“Actually, it does smell pretty good,” Link said.
“You can have dinner with us,” Adara offered.
“Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to impose.”
“Please, I insist.”
“Okay. I really appreciate it.”
Railan led Link to the table and offered him a chair. “You’ll really like this dish, it’s my favorite,” Railan said
“Thanks for your hospitality,” Link said to Adara as she got ready to serve the food.
“You’re very welcome, young man.” Adara looked around for her daughter, but didn’t see her anywhere. “Jamila! Dinner!” The girl came running and plopped down on her chair.
“Hi Mister Link!” she chirped. “Are you having dinner with us? It’s nice to see that Railan has a new friend. Now he needs a girlfriend. Maybe you could introduce him to a girl.”
Railan looked absolutely humiliated at his sister’s complete lack of tact. Link couldn’t help but chuckle. “How old are you, sweetheart?”
“I’m five,” she said proudly. “That’s this many.” She held up five fingers. Railan pounded his head on the table. Link thought it was cute. Link had never been around a child this young, and he thought she was absolutely adorable. His attention was diverted when Adara brought the food to the table. She doled out servings to everyone, and then sat down at her place at the table.
Link looked at the dish curiously. The main part of the meal was composed of a yellowish rice. There were many different vegetables that he didn’t recognize chopped into the mix, along with little pieces of meat. It smelled sweet and savory at the same time. He had no idea what spices she used, but he’d never had them before. He waited for Adara to start eating, because he figured that as the head of the household, she should start first. An awkward moment later, he realized that they were waiting for him to take the first bite. Link took a small forkful, tasting it experimentally. He couldn’t recognize many of the flavors, but he really liked it. It was a little bit spicy, but not that much. He quickly forgot where he was and started devouring the food. The rest started eating along with him. “Good,” Link said, his mouth nearly full. He suddenly slowed down his pace when he realized that he was eating like a pig. He didn’t want his new friend’s mother to think he was ill-mannered. “This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.”
“I told you it was good,” Railan said in between bites.
Adara gave Railan a stern look. “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
“But he did it,” Railan complained.
“He’s not my son.” Link didn’t pay much attention to their bantering, he was too busy enjoying the food. “So, Link. Tell me a little about yourself.”
Link’s head shot up at the mention of his name. “Huh? Oh...” He had to decide what he could and couldn’t tell them. He would definitely leave out all his adventures through time. “Well, Railan said before that I was a knight. When I was twelve, the princess was kidnapped by an assassin. A corrupt duke had hired him to kidnap and kill her. The guy even tried to kill me. I managed to find out where he went and I went to rescue her. He had hurt her badly, and I still wish that I had gotten there sooner. But everything turned out okay.”
Adara and Railan both looked shocked, and Link worried that he had said something inappropriate. He didn’t mean to shock them, he was just telling the truth. “Oh, that’s so terrible,” Adara said. “I remember hearing years ago about someone kidnapping the princess, but this. My, my.” If someone else had told her that story, she wouldn’t have believed him. But there was a genuine honesty in this young man; she could feel it. “And you were only twelve when you did this?” Link nodded in response. “You must be very proud.”
“Well, I try not to talk about it. Some people don’t believe me, and others get insanely jealous. I don’t want to brag about it. I did what I had to do.”
“That’s amazing,” Railan said. “I thought maybe you’d saved the princess from a rolling boulder or something. I didn’t know an assassin tried to kill her. How did you meet the princess?”
Link had to think fast. Should he decline to answer, or should he leave out parts of the story. “Well, that’s kind of a long story... And there’s some things I probably shouldn’t tell you. But basically I got word that she had a special mission for me. I was only ten, and I had no idea what she wanted with me. Nobody believed her because she was a child, but she has a wisdom far beyond her years. I actually snuck into the castle to see her. I eventually completed her mission, and we became friends after that. She was so lonely, because she didn’t have anyone else her age to interact with. Eventually we fell in love. I feel like we were destined to be together.”
“You’re so lucky,” Railan said. “It must be amazing to know the princess.” Link silently hoped that his friend wouldn’t get jealous. But it seemed that he was genuinely interested in what he was saying. “What’s she like?”
Link smiled. “She really is a nice person. You would think the princess and future queen would be stuck-up and snobbish. But she’s not. She doesn’t look down on people and goes out of her way to make others happy. She believes that her role is to serve her people, not the other way around.”
“She sounds great,” Adara said. “What about your family? What do they do?”
“Well, I have a twin sister named Solo. I consider my friends family, so there’s also Malon at the ranch, and my childhood friend Saria.”
“What do your parents do?” Railan asked.
A sad look flashed across his face, but he quickly controlled it. “I don’t have any parents. My sister and I are orphans. Our parents died shortly after we were born. I was raised in the Kokiri Forest. It’s quite different from out here. It’s really its own little world. They don’t see many outsiders, and none of them ever leave the forest. I actually thought I was one of them until I found out I was a Hylian. My sister spent the first few years of her life at an orphanage. See, our parents separated us when we were babies. There was a huge war then, and they wanted at least one of us to survive. But the orphanage burned down when Solo was four years old. She was the only survivor, and spent the nest ten years living homeless on the street. I didn’t even know she existed. But then we finally met. I was so sad that she had to live such a horrible life. She didn’t even know her own name, and named herself Solo. I later found out that her birth name is Zelda, but she sticks with Solo. She had a hard time growing up. I’d give anything to be able to go back in time and switch places with her. She’s all the blood family I have.”
“Oh, you poor thing,” Adara cooed. Link didn’t want pity from anyone, but he could sense that she was only expressing her opinion, and that she wasn’t patronizing him.
“I’ll never complain about anything ever again,” Railan said.
“I know it sounds heartbreaking, but it’s all I ever knew. Every person has a different set of problems in life, and I was no different. If anything, it made me a better person.”
“I’d like to meet your friends and family some time,” Adara said.
“I’d like that,” Link said with a smile. He had a feeling that he and Railan would become good friends.
Saria was tapping her fingers on her table, growing more annoyed by the minute. Link was supposed to be there for dinner twenty minutes ago. Although he was often late for any number of things, being late for a meal was rare. She’d made one of his favorite dishes: a flatbread topped with three kinds of sauce, herbs, spices, and several kinds of vegetables and mushrooms. “He’d better be here…” she muttered to herself.
Her head shot up when she heard the telltale sound of hooves clomping outside. Solo was staying at Malon’s house, so it could only be Link. She had learned to differentiate between the sounds of their different horses; each one had a unique pattern of sound. The sounds she heard were definitely from Epona. She put on her best scolding face as she heard Link approach. He was definitely going to get a talking to. But her anger vanished when she saw Link saunter in with a genuinely happy look on his face. “Hi Saria,” he said happily, kissing her on the cheek before sitting down at the table. “I’m sorry I was late, but I was at a friend’s house.”
The mention of a friend caught her attention. He wouldn’t use the generic term “friend” if it had been someone she knew. Therefore, he had to have made a new friend. Saria suddenly felt happy for him, which wasn’t hard to do considering that he was virtually oozing happiness right now. “You made a new friend?” she asked, feigning disinterest.
“Yeah, his name is Railan,” he replied as he cut up the food and gave Saria and himself servings. “He just got hired at the ranch. He just moved to the castle town a few days ago.” Link took a bite of the food and made a happy moan. “Wow, this is even better than last time. Did you do something new to it?”
Saria started, snapped out of her silent musings. “Oh…yes. I put a new herb in it. I hope you like it.” Link nodded enthusiastically. She smiled. “I thought you’d like it. So tell me about him.” Saria really was happy that he’d found a boy his age to be his friend. Most of his friends were girls of the same age, and that led to a lot of awkward situations. If Link needed anything, it was a male friend of his age. Saria chuckled when she thought about how a fellow man would find his fart jokes entertaining.
“What’s so funny?” Link asked with his mouth almost completely full.
“I was just thinking that your new friend would laugh at your fart jokes. Only boys would find that funny.”
Link stuck out his tongue at her. “At least I can understand him. Girls are way too complicated. I have a feeling that we’ll be good friends. He seems really nice. And his family is great too. He has a little sister, and she is absolutely the cutest person I’ve ever seen. He’s so lucky. I’ll bring him here sometime so he can meet you.”
Saria smiled. “I’d like that. I’d love to meet your new friend.”
“Zelda wants me, Solo, and Malon to have lunch with her tomorrow, and maybe I can bring Railan with. I don’t think he really believed me when I said that I knew Zelda. He might’ve thought I was exaggerating.”
“I can understand why it would be hard to believe,” said Saria. Most people wouldn’t expect a peasant like Link to know the princess personally. “I’d love to see the look on his face when he finds out for real.”
“I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.”
Railan was working hard at the ranch, doing his best to impress his bosses. He wanted Talon and Malon to get what they were paying for. He had just finished cleaning all the stables, dumping the waste in a giant compost pile. He wandered around until he found Malon. “I’m all done, Miss Malon. What’s next?”
Malon gave a curious look. “Really? You cleaned out the stables?” He nodded. “Fed the chickens, fed the horses, and collected the eggs?”
He nodded after each question. “Yes, Miss.”
“Wow, you’re fast.” This boy was a far cry better than Ingo ever was.
“What do you have for me to do now?”
Malon shrugged her shoulders. “Actually, everything’s done. With Solo helping me, and you working so fast, we got done early.”
It was only about noon, and Railan was surprised that they finished so quickly. “Do you want me to go home right now?”
“Well, actually...Zelda wanted to take me, Solo, and Link to her place for lunch. I don’t see any reason why you can’t come with. I’d like to be friends with you. I’m sure Link would too.”
Solo finally finished babying her horse and came outside to the entrance to the corral, where Malon and Railan were talking. “Well, after Link showed me around town yesterday, I invited him to my house. I’m glad to have a new friend, especially one that can help me adjust to living here.”
“Oh, Link went over to your house?” Solo asked, trying to squeeze into the conversation. “He must be so happy to have a friend that’s a boy.”
“What do you mean?” Railan asked, a confused look on his face.
“All of Link’s friends are girls,” Solo explained. “He doesn’t have any friends his age that are boys. You’d be the first one.”
Railan imagined having nothing but females for company. He couldn’t see a problem with that. “Wow. He’s lucky.”
Solo and Malon giggled. “You know, he doesn’t think of us as potential dating material,” Malon said. Solo stuck out her tongue and shook her head. “I don’t even think something like that would even cross his mind. He’s so infatuated with Zelda that he doesn’t see other women as possible mates.”
“All he needs is someone who understand how his mind works,” Solo said. “Sometimes I feel bad for him because he doesn’t understand how women think.”
“Isn’t that the truth,” Railan commented. They glared at him as a joke, but he took it seriously. “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I jus mean that women are complicated and I don’t understand them and I don’t think any man does.”
“I know,” Malon said. “Calm down, we’re just joking.”
“He’s coming,” Solo said. They heard the sound of hooves grow closer; two horses were coming. Link riding Epona and Zelda riding her brilliantly white stallion came into view and stopped by the group. Link dismounted Epona and took Zelda’s hand to politely help her off her horse.
Link looked like a child giddy with excitement as he introduced his new friend to Zelda. “Zelda this is Railan, he’s the new friend I told you about. Railan, this is Zelda.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Zelda said sweetly. “Any friend of Link’s is a friend of mine.”
Railan was amazed by Zelda’s appearance. She had a very delicate beauty about her, with light golden hair, shining blue eyes, and a kind, hypnotizing smile. He almost couldn’t believe that Link knew so many gorgeous women. “It’s nice to meet you...um, Your Royal...Highness Majesty.” He looked genuinely confused. “Is that right?”
Zelda smiled reassuringly and patted the back of his hand. “That’s fine. You don’t need to call me by any titles or honorifics. Just call me by my name. Only snotty aristocrats call me ‘your highness’. You’re a friend, so use my name.”
“Okay. Can I ask you a question?” Zelda nodded. “Are you really the princess? The princess of Hyrule? It’s not that I don’t believe you or Link, but I thought that maybe he meant that he thinks of you like a princess and treats you like one.”
“Oh yes, it’s true,” Zelda replied. “I know it’s hard to believe, but you’ll see when we go to the castle. That is, if you want to come to lunch with us?”
Railan smiled, trying to hold back the excitement. “Yes, absolutely.”
“Great,” Zelda said happily, clapping her hands together. Malon and Solo went to the stable to get their horses ready. Zelda noticed the curious look on Railan’s face. “You can ask me any question you want.”
“I expected you to have a crown, or at least a bunch of fancy jewelry. You have a nice dress, but it doesn’t look like it cost a thousand rupees or something.” Her dress was very simple, a light lavender color with tiny flowers patterned on it
“Oh, I don’t wear any of that fancy stuff normally, only for special occasions. And I can’t remember the last time I actually wore my crown...that was years ago.” She spoke casually, as if everyone had the same problem.
“You’re living every man’s dream,” Railan said to Link. Then he turned to Zelda. “How often does some prince or other royalty try to convince you to marry him?”
Zelda laughed. “It happens all the time,” she said. “I just tell them to get lost. Some are persistent, but they all give up eventually.”
Solo and Malon came out of the stable and mounted their horses. Railan went to get his borrow horse, and followed the rest of the group to the castle.
As the group approached the gates, the guards opened it. They bowed to Zelda and saluted Link as they passed by. Railan looked around in wonder. “Wow, it looks so much nicer from inside the gates,” he said. “And I didn’t realize that the castle was so huge.”
“Wait till you see the inside,” Zelda said. They stopped by the stables and turned their horses over to the stable hands there. Railan followed the group into the castle, and he lagged behind a couple times when he stopped to look at something.
“I can’t believe that I meet you, and the next day I’m in the castle with the princess,” Railan said to Link.
Zelda led them to the dining room, and they all took a seat. “So what’s this special lunch you have for us?” Solo asked excitedly.
“I hope it’s something edible,” Link commented, recalling many meals that he would’ve never thought could actually be food.
“Well, the actual meal is normal roast beef,” Zelda said. “It’s the dessert that’s special. I’m sure you’ll all like it. They should be serving us any minute now.” Then, as if on cue, three servants entered the room, and set plates in front of everyone. Solo and Link dug in, while the others ate at a slightly slower pace.
“This palace is unbelievable,” Railan said, trying to start a conversation. “I’ve never seen such beautiful paintings and tapestries. I still keep thinking this is a dream I’m going to wake up from.”
“I felt the same way the first time I came here,” Solo said. “You’ll get used to it.”
“So tell me a little about yourself,” Zelda asked Railan.
He introduced himself and told her about himself and his family, saying the same things he’d told Link the day before. Zelda listened intently and asked questions when she wanted to know more. Railan told her a condensed version of his life, trying not to leave out important details.
“Now what would you like to know about me?” Zelda asked after Railan finished.
“Uh...anything you want to tell me is fine,” he replied, unsure of what questions he should ask. “I’m sure you get this question all the time, but what’s it like being a princess?”
She chuckled; it was true, people did ask her that frequently. “Some of it is really nice. I can’t complain about the fancy food and clothes, and all the things I have. Anybody would love to have all this stuff. But I don’t really care about possessions. Sometimes I even have to tell the servants that I don’t need their help. I remember as a little girl that the servants always wanted to dress me. I didn’t want to stand there and have people put clothes on me, I could handle that myself.
“But it’s not all about being pampered. There’s a lot of work involved. I’ve been studying and training to be a queen all my life. I take classes on every subject you can think of. I speak four foreign languages, plus Ancient Hylian, Old Hylian, and Middle Hylian. Being with my friends is the only relief I have from constant studying and training.”
“Wow,” Railan said. “You must be the smartest girl in Hyrule.”
Zelda blushed and thanked him for the compliment. Just then, two servants reentered the dining room, one carrying bowls and the other carrying a bucket. “Ah! Here’s the surprise,” Zelda said. The servants went to each person and set down a bowl, then filled it with a solid, but soft pink substance. None of them knew what it was.
“Is this pudding?” Solo asked. She poked at it with her finger and quickly pulled it back in surprise. “It’s cold! What is this?”
“It’s ice cream,” Zelda said. “It’s made from milk and cream, along with flavorings. This has strawberries in it.” Zelda started eating and the others followed suit. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the frozen treat.
“How did you freeze this stuff at this time of year?” Malon asked.
“People cut huge blocks of ice from the mountains and cart them down here,” Zelda replied. “It’s rather time-consuming and expensive, so we don’t have it often.” All of their bowls were empty and Zelda passed the bucket around the table. “Go on, eat more. It won’t be any good once it’s melted.” Everyone helped himself to seconds, and in the case of Link, thirds and fourths.
Railan really enjoyed the meal and the new friends he made. After meeting the future queen, he had no idea what to expect next. He wondered what other surprises Link had for him.
After the meal and talking for a couple hours, Zelda remained at the castle, and everyone else left. Malon had to return home to cook for her father, and Link and Solo went back to their home. Link invited Railan to come to the Kokiri Forest and stay the night if he wanted to. Railan was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the Kokiri Forest. He was speechless. “This is my home, the village where I grew up,” Link said after they dismounted their horses and let them roam free.
“Beautiful,” Railan said, distracted by the wonderful sights around him. “You live in a wonderful place. Look at all these cozy little houses. How many people live here?”
“Less than a hundred,” Link answered. He showed him around the town, and pointed out everything of interest. Railan noticed that all the inhabitants were children, and he wondered where the adults were.
“Where are the adults?” he asked.
“Well, there aren’t any. The Kokiri are a rather different race. They don’t actually grow up like we do. They look young, but all of them are actually older than me.”
“I didn’t know people like this even existed.”
Link led Railan to Saria’s house, to introduce him to his oldest friend. Railan saw a cute, green-haired girl with a huge smile greet him. “Hi, I’m Saria. It’s really nice to meet you.”
“Same here,” Railan said. He was a little confused at the small, glowing creature that flitted about the room, staying mostly behind Saria. “What is that?”
“That’s a fairy,” Saria replied. “Her name is Niva. All of the Kokiri have a fairy; they’re friends and guardians. They help us when we need it.” Saria poked her fairy and it fluttered off her shoulder and hovered close to her. “Go on, say hello to Railan. He won’t hurt you.”
Saria’s fairy flew over to Railan and settled in the palm of his hand. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Up close he could see that fairy was a tiny person with wings, but she also had a strange ethereal glow. Railan was afraid to touch her, lest he injure her. “You’re really cute,” Railan said. “I didn’t know that fairies existed. I thought they were a myth.”
“Yep, we’re real,” the fairy replied in a cheery, high-pitched voice. “You look different than everyone else. You’re cute.” The fairy flew away and returned to the safety of Saria’s head.
“First I meet the princess, then this magical race that never grows up; and they all have fairies! Is there anything else you want to shock me with?”
“I can’t think of anything at the moment,” Link said.
“It’d be great to be a kid forever,” Railan said.
Link motioned for him to follow. “I’ll show you my house.” Railan followed Link outside to his house. The climbed the ladder and went inside. The smallness of the house surprised Railan, but he supposed it made sense if a person remained a child for life.
“I take it these houses weren’t designed for adults,” Railan said. “It’s nice though. It must be great to live here; waking up every morning to the sounds and smells of the forest. And you have so much neat stuff.” Railan looked at all the trinkets that Link had collected over the years, but what captured his attention were the swords. Link saw his interest and handed Railan one of the blades. He held it carefully, surprised at the weight. “This is really heavy. But it feels balanced too. I can’t imagine how much strength and training it must take to master this.”
“I was kind of a natural at it. But it still took practice. Later I’ll show you some techniques and let you give it a try.” Railan handed the sword back and Link returned it to its place on the wall. Railan looked at some of the other things Link had. He picked up a small, simple book and flipped through it. The pages were blank, except for one in the middle. It had writing on it in a language he didn’t know. Link took the book and translated for him. “It says ‘You are getting close, but your mission is far from complete. You will become the hero of another time, on a journey that no one will remember. No matter how hard it gets, remember that I’m here for you and I won’t leave you behind.’ I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean. I found this somewhere, but I don’t know where exactly. I was missing for a day just a couple days ago, and I can’t remember where I was. It was like I missed a whole day of my life. I know I’m supposed to remember something, but I just can’t bring it out.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Link said. “Come outside, let me show you something.” Railan followed Link outside. He went to the small stable where he’d stored the mysterious books he found. Solo was standing there with a dumbfounded look on her face. “The other day, I literally appeared out of nowhere along with a bunch of books in a language no one knows.” He opened the door to the stable and was shocked to see it empty. “Where’d they go?”
Solo spoke up, “I was just about to go get one to look at it, and they all disappeared. Just a second ago, poof and they were gone. What is going on here? You disappear for a day and have no memory of what happened, then you come back with a bunch of foreign books, and now the books have vanished into thin air.”
Link shook his head. “There’s something significant about this,” he mumbled, lost in thought. He remembered someone telling him something about a person or thing vanishing. “It’s like they weren’t meant to be here...”
Railan looked in the stable and found a small, fist-sized object. It had a rounded back, and a flat black front. “What’s this thing?” Railan asked, showing it to Link. Link held it in his hand and it felt familiar.
“I think I’ve seen this before,” Link said, examining the object. Solo and Railan both leaned over his shoulder to look at it. Link rubbed his finger over the shiny black part and a soft beeping noise came from it. Tiny lights in many different colors appeared and all three of them began to feel strange. They had a weird buzzing sensation as the world around them turned a brilliant, blinding white.
The man watched from afar, always close, but never too close. He had to be careful not to interact with anyone or anything. The cloak her wore took care of that problem. When he wore it, he was invisible. All he had to do was make sure he didn’t bump into anyone; he may have been invisible, but he could still touch and interact with the world. Interaction had to be kept to a minimum.
He’d kept a close tail on Link for the last couple days, looking and waiting for something. The problem was he didn’t know what to look for. He didn’t know if Link was the source of the problem, or if someone else was. What he did know was that Link was the focal point of the incursion. He knew something important was happening when Link, his sister, and his friend disappeared. Technology like that didn’t exist in this time, so something was amiss.
The man looked at his wrist device and tried to track where Link went. After several minutes of searching, he found him. He was in a place that he shouldn’t be. His wrist gadget was telling him that Link was far underground, inside solid rock. But that couldn’t be right, he was still getting a signal. He knew what his job was, and what the risks were. So he took a deep breath and commanded the wrist gadget to send him to the same place Link had gone.
When the blinding light subsided, the three opened their eyes. The forest was gone. They stood inside some kind of huge cavern, bigger than the eye could judge. It was brightly lit with a plain, white light that seemed to come from everywhere at once. “What is this place?” Solo and Railan asked simultaneously. Link stood still, staring at the huge metal platform in the middle of the room. Suddenly a deluge of memories flooded his mind, almost overwhelming him. It made sense now. He could remember.
“I know what this place is,” Link said, barely above a whisper. “This is the machine that caused the tragedies.” Without explanation, Link ran towards the huge horseshoe-shaped shelf surrounding the platform. Dumbfounded, Solo and Railan followed Link. He ran around the shelf and stopped when he saw the panel with the red and green rectangles. He started pulling them out of the holes and throwing them on the ground, smashing them with his boots.
“What is this?” Solo asked, worried about Link’s sudden change in demeanor. “What are you doing?”
“We have to destroy this, all of this,” Link said. “The future depends on it.” Link stopped stepping on the rectangles and rummaged around the boxes strewn about the room until he found one full of tools. He pulled out three large mallets and handed one each to Solo and Railan. “Take these. Go to that shelf there and start smashing things. Just break everything.”
“But why?” Solo asked.
“Just do it, I’ll explain later.” Link went to work smashing everything in sight. Every button and protrusion from the device was victim to his wrath. Solo and Railan decided that if Link was so adamant about destroying the object, that he must’ve had a good reason. They followed his command and started breaking things. “A terrible future is coming if we don’t disable this thing. I won’t let that happen. I won’t let Hyrule be conquered, and I won’t let my family die. It’s not going to happen!” Link continued his path of destruction with almost insane glee. He continued destroying until he finally exhausted himself and collapsed to the floor. Solo ran to him.
“Link! Link! What’s wrong,” she asked desperately.
Link was tired and out of breath, but not injured. “This whole thing, it’s a time machine. An evil person is going to use it to change the future to something horrible. I have to destroy it before that can happen.” Link tried to calm himself down. “Let me catch my breath, and we can do more.”
All three of them leaned against the shelf and rested, not saying anything to each other. Solo was worried about Link, and Railan was so confused that he didn’t know what to think. Their attention was caught when there was a loud whoosh noise and a flash of light. A person emerged from the light, but was to far away to tell who it was. As the figure approached, Link grew tense. The person had the telltale red hair and physique of a Gerudo woman. Link stood and drew the dagger that he always kept on his belt. Without warning he charged the woman. At the last second, she dodged his attack and flung him several feet away from her. “You little twerp!” the woman shouted. “You ruined everything! You’ll pay for this.” She drew a huge, curved scimitar and took a battle stance.
“Koros!” Link yelled back at her. “I know what you’re trying to do to the future, and I won’t let you. I’m going to kill you.” Link charged Koros and their knives clanged together. Her weapon was far superior to Link’s, but his prowess and agility gave him at least an equal chance. They danced around each other, striking, parrying and dodging. Link faked an attack on her right and went for her left side as she tried to dodge. She caught his arm as she struck and pushed him to the floor. He only managed to gash her on the side.
Railan stood in shocked horror at the display before him. Solo couldn’t take it anymore and picked up a wrench off the floor. While Link was on the ground, Solo hurled the wrench at Koros and it hit her hard in the shoulder. She turned around and glared at Solo. “You little bitch!” While she was distracted, Link got up and charged her. He managed to bury the knife in her right shoulder, disabling her arm. Link backed off and Koros stumbled before she picked up the scimitar with her left hand and continued to fight. Link tried to dodge, but he misstepped and Koros took immediate advantage of it. She lunged forward and drove her sword into Link’s abdomen.
He felt the pressure of the blade being driven into his gut, but he surprisingly didn’t feel much pain. He stumbled and swayed before finally losing his balance and crashing to the ground. He coughed up blood and nearly choked. The sounds around him grew quieter and quieter as his senses dulled.
The cloaked man found himself inside a huge cavern. He knew exactly what this was, but he didn’t have the time to examine the machine. He could hear Link and his friends in the distance. Banging noises echoed through the chamber, and he realized that someone was trying to smash something. The man broke into a dead run, going as fast as he could to reach them before they caused irreparable damage.
As he got closer, he saw that Link and a woman were fighting. Link had a small knife, and the woman had a huge sword; the advantage was definitely hers. He had to stop the fight before he was seriously injured. The man’s nightmare came true when Link stumbled and the woman thrust the sword into him. Just as Link fell to the ground, the man leapt for Koros and tackled her to the ground. Without any conscious thought, he removed a small, needle-like device from his pocket and stuck her in the neck. Instantly she fell still, unconscious and temporarily paralyzed.
The man felt a familiar tingling sensation over his whole body, and he knew that his cloak had failed. He was now visible. He immediately tended to the fallen Link, who was barely alive. He was moaning and coughing up blood. Solo was frantic and punching and kicking the man. “Leave him alone!” Solo screamed, trying to pull him away from Link.
“Calm down, I’m an expert,” the man insisted. He pushed Solo away and tried to help Link. The sword was jutting out of his stomach and Link was futilely trying to pull it out. “Stop. Leave it there; pulling it out will only make it worse.” Solo and Railan both hovered over the mysterious man, holding large wrenches and ready to beat the man senseless.
“Who are you?” Solo demanded.
“My name is Orlin,” the man said. “I’m here to help. You both need to stand back. I can help Link, but I need to take him away for a while. Please don’t interfere.” The man pulled a small, square device out of his pocket. It had a tiny screen on it with letters and little lights. He pushed a couple buttons and the device beeped. Link, Koros, and Orlin began to glow bright blue. Solo didn’t know what was happening, so she jumped on top of the man, and Railan followed, wanting to help his new friend. They both started to glow and an instant later, all five of them disappeared.
A short, skinny man with glasses sat in front of his console at the Temporal Control station, watching and waiting for something to happen. His only job was to monitor incoming and outgoing travelers. He had a few minutes of work each day, followed by hours of boredom. He was about to doze off when his screen beeped. He waved for his boss to come over. “Commander, we have an incoming traveler.”
The commander went to the man to assess the situation. “What’ve we got?”
The man looked at his screen and read the codes. “It’s Orlin’s signature. I’m receiving signals for a medical emergency and security protocols.”
The commander pushed the button on his communicator. “Send medical and security teams to the portal immediately.” The commander noticed a confused look on the other man’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“Sir, the readings I’m getting indicate a mass increase of three hundred seventy-four percent.”
“Dammit,” the commander swore. “He’s brought someone with him.”
The other man examined his screen closely. “I’m detecting five life signs.”
The commander activated his communicator again. “We need to enact quarantine protocols for minus two thousand years.” The commander jogged away from the console to stand in front of the portal. The portal was a giant circular floor fifty feet in diameter, standing on a platform about ten feet off the ground. A transparent, glass-like structure completely surrounded and enclosed the platform. There was an outer ring between the portal circle and the glass, divided by a waist-high railing. Security guards with weapons stood behind the railing, prepared for everything. On the wide ramp that led to the glass circle, a team of doctors with gurneys and medical kits waited for the travelers to arrive. The commander stood on the side of the ramp, waiting for his agent to arrive.
“The subjects are approaching the temporal threshold,” the monitor said. A loud rumbling noise filled the cavernous room and the circle glowed a bright blue. There was a flash and a crack like thunder and five people appeared on the platform. The security guards aimed their weapons at everyone and the medical team rushed to help the injured. Orlin pointed to Link, who still had the sword sticking out of his chest.
“Treat the boy,” Orlin ordered. “Non-genetic treatment, he can’t receive anything that will add to the genome. You have to save him at all costs.” The medical team loaded Link onto a gurney and whisked him away. Koros remained unconscious and Railan and Solo were moaning and rolling around. They were too disoriented to know what was going on. Orlin stood up and pointed to Koros. “Lock her up and treat her as a dangerous threat. Those other two are friends of Link’s. They need to be sent back.”
The commander cleared everyone out of the portal room, leaving Railan and Solo behind. “Send them back where they came from,” the commander ordered. The workers quickly set out to activate the time machine to send Railan and Solo back before they were conscious of what was happening. The high-pitched whine of charging capacitors filled the room.
“Setting timeframe for immediate return,” said a worker over the intercom. “Two travelers. Full charge in ten seconds.” The ten seconds counted down, but nothing happened. The ever-present background noise from the machine ceased, leaving the room in eerie silence.
“What the hell happened?” The commander demanded. He ran to the main control console, a large rectangular screen fifteen feet wide. A dozen workers sat in front of smaller screens, which were positioned on a curved shelf directly in front of the main screen. The people in front of the main screen monitored all of the time machines systems, and knew everything that was going on.
One of the workers, in charge of machine operations, swiveled his chair around to face the commander. “The capacitors charged, but the portal didn’t activate. I’m waiting for the error computer to process the information.” He looked back at his screen. “The capacitors were discharged into the chronon field coils, but nothing happened.” There was a beep and the worker read the information on the screen. “It looks like we have a fatal stop error. There was some kind of feedback into the field coils and the machine went into safe mode to prevent an overload. The temporal core shut down. It’ll take two days minimum to get it running, and that’s if there’s nothing wrong with it.”
“Dammit,” the commander swore again. He looked at the rest of the controllers. “Is there anything else I need to know?” The rest of them shook their heads. Satisfied for now, the commander went back to the portal to meet Orlin. He was explaining to the security guards how to handle Koros.
“Keep her under constant guard,” Orlin said to the guards. “Tie her up. Don’t let her even move. Put in an IV and a catheter if you have to, but keep her alive.” He looked up at the commander. “There was nothing I could do. Link was mortally wounded in a fight, and I had to bring him back to save him. He’s the focal point. If he dies, there won’t be much of a Hyrule left to protect. And the woman is the perpetrator.”
“And what about those two?” the commander asked, pointing to Railan and Solo.
Orlin sighed. “That was an accident. They jumped into my event horizon. I just gave them a three hour sedative, so they’ll be out for a while.”
“We’ve never brought any natives back with us,” the commander said sternly. “You’ll be lucky if you get out of prison before you die. And we can’t send them back, the core shut down.”
Orlin waved over a few security guards. “Put those two into a secured multi-room guest suite. Remove all the electronics from the rooms and as much technology as you can. No TVs, computers, hair dryers, nothing. Give them only natural foods, some fruit or something. But make sure they don’t have anything that can give them non-native immunities. Put them both in bed. You have two hours.” The guards grabbed Railan and Solo and left.
Orlin stood up and stretched. The commander glared at him and motioned for him to follow. “You have a lot of explaining to do.”
Link opened his eyes, wondering if everything had been a dream. He sat up and frantically ran his hands over his abdomen, searching for the gaping wound. Nothing was there. But something didn’t feel right. He was sitting on his bed in his tree house, alone. His intuition told him that none of this was real. The world around him was dim and still, as if all life had been sucked out of it. There was no wind, no noise, none of the normal background of everyday life. He could distinctly remember fighting with Koros, and what the result had been. He felt like retching at the memory of the sword being plunged into him; he could feel his flesh tearing and taste the blood in his mouth. But no sign of his wound existed.
He’d experienced certain out-of-body experiences and hallucinations, but this was too different. There was nothing here. All he could hear were his own thoughts. He felt like he was blindfolded and gagged inside of a burlap sack. The complete lack of stimuli was extremely unsettling. The only thing he could think of was that he was dead. That sword wound had to have killed him, no one could survive that. If this was death, then everything he’d been taught was a lie. Spending all of eternity alone? That was not something he could tolerate. He didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to his loved ones.
Link turned his head and was startled when he saw a man standing there. He was wearing a simple blue tunic with brown trousers. He was about Link’s height, with blonde hair and blue eyes. The man looked to be about thirty years old, but he couldn’t be sure. He’d never seen this man before, but he seemed familiar. “Who are you?” Link demanded. “Why am I here? I’ m sick of these stupid dreams that aren’t dreams. If you want to say something to me, then say it.”
The man smiled. “Feisty, just as I expected,” the man said. “I’m sorry, but at the moment you are unable to communicate in any manner other than this.” He lifted his arms and gestured to his surroundings. “This is a bit cliché, don’t you think? I know you’ve had experiences like this before. I really would rather talk to you face-to-face.”
Link crossed his arms over his chest. “So, am I dead? Dying? Unconscious? What?”
“Unconscious would about cover it,” the man replied. “Dying would also be accurate. But let’s hope that doesn’t come to fruition. Since you are currently incapacitated, this was the only way I could talk to you.”
“Where am I? Where’s my body?”
“Right now, you are in an operating room.” Link gave him a weird look. “Lucky for you, a man with good intentions came just in the nick of time. He brought you back to his home and a team of very skilled doctors are repairing the damage to your body. That was some fight. I’m sorry it ended that way. I know that you’re a skilled fighter, and that bitch just got lucky.”
“How could someone fix a wound like that? I know I should be dead.”
“Different peoples have different skills,” the man said. “Where you’re from, doctors can’t heal a wound like that. Where your rescuer is from, doctors can do that easily. I think you’re going to be fine. No matter how hard it gets, remember that I’m here for you and I won’t leave you behind.”
Link narrowed his eyes. “Are you reading my mind? Stop that now.”
The man shook his head. “Private thoughts are private. I know that line because I’m the one who wrote it. I left that book for you to find. I’m not allowed to leave behind artifacts; even talking to you violates the rules. But frankly, this is too important. Breaking a couple rules won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.”
“Are you going to tell me who you are, or are we going to have to beat around the bush? I’m really sick of metaphors and hallucinations and weird, mystical apparitions. Out with it.”
“I’m your father,” the man replied. “Simple enough?”
The expression on Link’s face went from shocked, to confused, to happy, and back to shocked. He didn’t know what to feel. He didn’t know if he believed it. The man did bear somewhat of a resemblance to himself, a little. “I never met you. Even my mother told me that you couldn’t appear to me like this.”
“But she said that I might be able to some day,” his father countered. “You’re an extraordinary young man, with powers far beyond anything any other person could dream of. It’s reasonable that your parents would be the same way, isn’t it?”
“She said you couldn’t join her, that the Vinculum wasn’t open to you because you weren’t an Oracle.”
“You’re absolutely right. I never was an Oracle. But just because I didn’t have powers in life doesn’t mean that I don’t have them now. True enlightenment can only happen after one sheds his physical body. Your mother is currently in the process of discovering this. The Vinculum is like a stepping stone, but it’s still tied to the physical body. You have to give up your ties to the physical world in order to ascend.”
“Why am I here? Does this have anything to do with the horrible future that my older self told me about?”
“Yes, it does, and more.” His father suddenly stopped and looked up. “You have to go now. The doctors have fixed you, and you’re going to wake up. I’ll be back.” His father vanished and a strange, disconnected feeling came over Link. He felt sick and dizzy, and the false world around him disappeared into blackness.
Orlin sat casually in the chair in front of the commander’s desk, waiting to be debriefed. The commander sat down behind his desk with a loud sigh. “So, care to tell me why we have four people from the past currently here?”
“It was necessary to complete the mission,” Orlin replied. “The other two were an accident, they jumped on me when I tried to help Link. They shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Well, they damn well might be a problem if we can’t send them back! In case you didn’t notice, the machine is down. The scientists are running simulations to see how bad of an effect this little stunt is going to cause.”
“That woman I brought back was tampering with the a machine in the past. That’s where our temporal incursion originated. I was following Link around, and things got weird from there. He actually disappeared from the timeline for a day. I don’t know where he went, but I know that the woman is behind it.”
“They’re from a primitive time,” the commander said, not impressed with Orlin’s story. “They don’t have time travel.”
“She was using an ancient time machine.”
The commander’s jaw dropped. “That’s impossible. They didn't have that kind of technology back. We would’ve detected it long ago.”
“This machine was in working condition. The temporal shielding was still operating. The only way I discovered it was when Link used some artifact from that place and teleported to the machine. I tracked his signature there. Everything was intact. There were still papers on people’s desks.”
The commander rubbed his chin. “This changes everything. I’ll have to talk to the Council. In the meantime, you have to check on the boy and his friends. We can’t keep them unconscious forever. You have to make up some story to tell them. Minimal impact, do you understand? I want the incursion factor for this to be less than one. Now go.”
Solo rolled over in her bed and groaned. She felt like she’d been asleep for days. She was groggy and her mouth was horribly dry. But the bed felt strange, it was way too soft. She tried to remember what had happened, and when the memories hit her. She shot up and looked around frantically. She was in a place she’d never seen before. It was obviously a bedroom, with a small nightstand, a desk, and a couple chairs. A smooth, white light came from two tubes in the ceiling, and she stared at them in fascination for a minute.
Solo had to figure out where she was. She got out of bed and check the closed door; it was unlocked. She opened it and peeked outside. There was some kind of living area out front, with two couches, a small table, and a shelf where she expected the fireplace to be. On the right side of the room was an open area with a dining table and what looked to be a kitchen. There was a large basin and some kind of boxy device that vaguely reminded her of a stove. What caught her attention were the huge bowl of fruit and pitcher of water on the table. She ran over to the table and grabbed the pitcher, drinking half of it.
She sat down in relief to let her stomach settle. She heard a creak and saw Railan opening a door. The rear wall had three doors, Solo’s had been on the right, and Railan came out of the left door. She didn’t know what was behind the third door. Railan looked bleary-eyed and half asleep; he stumbled over to Solo and sat down next to her. “What is going on?” he asked, yawning widely. “Where the hell are we?”
“I have no idea,” Solo replied. “This place is weird.” Everything had a strange design to it. All the furniture was squarish, and was made of materials that they couldn’t identify.
Railan pounded his head on the table. “What’s going to happen next? I’ve never had such a life-changing experience. Is knowing Link always this strange? I mean, is it normal for you guys to get into sword battles, be warped to strange caves, and then wake up in some other dimension or something?”
Solo laughed. “You know, you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Railan just shook his head. “I need to find out what happened to Link. If he dies, I’m going to skin that woman alive.” Solo went to the middle door and opened it, revealing a small room with a sink, mirror, bathtub, and something that vaguely resembled the hole in an outhouse. Solo growled in frustration and went to the door at the opposite side of the room. She tried to turn the knob, but it wouldn’t budge. She pulled at the door and banged on it. “Hey! Somebody open this door!” Solo was angry now. She picked up on of the dining table chairs and smashed it against the door. Only the chair was damaged.
She stood back when she heard the sound of keys jingling from behind the door. “Stand back,” said a voice from behind the door. “I’m unarmed, and I’m here to help.” Solo picked up another chair and prepared to attack if necessary. Railan followed suit and picked up a chair. The door opened, and Orlin stepped inside, closing the door behind him. He held up his hands in a gesture of peace. “I’m not here to hurt you.”
Solo dropped the chair and confronted him, standing inches from his face. “You!” she growled, pointing an accusing finger. “You’re the one that came out of nowhere in that cave! What did you do to Link? Where is he? Don’t you dare say he’s dead, because you’ll be the first one I’ll kill.”
“Calm down. My name is Orlin. Your brother is fine. Our doctors fixed him.”
Solo looked visibly relieved. “Please, I want to see him.”
Orlin shook his head. “Not yet, I’m sorry. He’s still recovering. He had a very severe injury, and it’ll take a few hours for him to recover from the surgery he had. I’ll bring him here as soon as he’s able.”
“Where are we?” Railan asked.
Orlin tried to think of what to say. These people were pre-industrial, but not primitive. He was thankful that the Hylian language had only changed slightly since their time. “I’ve taken you to a far away place. We have a lot of different things here that you’ve probably never seen before. I want you both to know that you are going to get back home, and everything will be all right.”
“Are we prisoners?” Solo asked bluntly.
“Not technically, no. But you are confined to these rooms. The world outside here is dangerous, and it’s for your own protection. All your needs will be taken care of. You will have food, water, clothing, and anything else you want. You won’t be here for long, just a couple days. Follow me and I’ll show you how everything here works.”
Link slowly faded back into reality. He could hear muffled voices coming from not too far away, but he couldn’t make them out. His whole body felt sore, especially his abdomen. He felt nauseous, his mouth was dry, and his head was spinning. Link opened his eyes and squinted at the harsh light. Once his eyes adjusted, he examined his surroundings. He was in a small room that was stark white. The floor was white, as well as the walls, the table in the corner, and the bed he was on. Even the sheets and gown he wore were white. He’d never seen so much white before.
Link sat up and winced. He pulled up the flimsy gown and examined his abdomen. There was no sign of his injury except for a faint pink scar. The man claiming to be his father was correct: someone had healed him. He said a silent prayer of thanks to the goddesses. Upon further inspection of his body, he saw a strange tube attached to his hand, which le to a clear bag full of water--or something that looked like water--hanging from a pole. There was also some kind of circle stuck to his chest. He picked at it, but was afraid to take it off; same for the tube in his hand.
The door to his room was cracked open, and he could see a little outside. Two people stopped and talked in the hallway. He tried to listen to what they were saying. “You owe me five hundred rupees,” said one man. “I told you the kid looked strong. He went through the tissue regenerator in three hours. You lost the bet.”
“Fine,” said the other man with a sigh. He saw the second man hand the first man some slips of paper. “But you know it’s unethical to bet on a patient’s recovery time.”
Link saw the first man put the slips of paper into a small black pouch, which he then put into his pocket. “Yeah, tell that to the nurses. They bet on who’s gonna be the next to get a venereal disease.” The second man commented on how sick that was and walked off. The first man laughed and entered Link’s room. Link stared at him. The man was of average height, with thinning brown hair and brown eyes. He was wearing a long white coat with plain blue clothes underneath. “Hello young man,” he said. He was speaking Hylian, but had a strange accent. “You’re lucky to be alive. I’m the doctor that healed you.”
“How could you heal a wound like that? I should’ve died. What kind of magic do you have?”
The doctor laughed. “I’m sorry, but I can’t really tell you much. We have skills much better than doctors where you come from. We don’t use magic. But I will admit, some of the stuff we do looks like magic. But what’s important is that you’re healed completely. You’ll be sore for a couple days. Don’t do anything strenuous for a few weeks, because your body will be tender and a little easier to injure. Also, your thirst and appetite will be unusually high for the next few days. Don’t worry, it’s normal. If you’re hungry, eat.”
The doctor took his coat off and put it on the table. He opened a drawer and pulled out a roll of gauze. “I’m going to take all these tubes out of you.” Link flinched when the man tried to touch him. “Relax, I’m not going to hurt you. The thing in your hand might bleed a little bit, but it’s nothing serious.” Link felt like he could trust this man, so he nodded for him to continue. The man removed some sticky tape from the back of Link’s hand and pulled the tube out. Link watched in fascination as he saw a tiny needle come out. It bled a little and the doctor dabbed at it and wrapped the bandage around his hand. Then he pulled the circle off his chest. “There, all done. Just remember to take it easy. I’m going to go get the man who brought you here. He’ll take you to your room. Just stay here, I’ll be right back.” The doctor left and closed the door behind him.
Something inside Link told him to look for money. He remembered the two men mentioning rupees. Link dug in the pockets of the doctor’s coat and pulled out the black thing he’d put his money into. It was smooth leather and folded in half. He opened it and saw many slips of colored paper inside. He looked at the papers closely. They had numbers in the corners, pictures of people on the front, and text that said Bank of Hyrule and One Hundred Rupees. The spelling was a little strange, but he could read it. These papers had to represent real money somehow. He took all the papers and put the wallet back into the jacket. Link folded up the papers and stuffed them into his boots, which were at the base of his bed. His boots were the only things left of his clothing, he assumed that his other clothes had been ruined.
The door opened and the man who saved him walked inside. “Hi, Link. My name’s Orlin. Sorry to bring you to a weird place, but I had to do it to save you. You’re way too important to history.”
“Are you going to explain what’s happening?”
“Not yet. I have to talk to my superiors first. I’ll take you to your room where you can rest. Your sister and your friend are there. Sorry about the gown, I’ll get you some decent clothes after you get settled.” All Link wore was a flimsy gown and baggy pants made of the same material. He did like the socks, though. They were soft and comfortable. He put his boots and tried not to let his discomfort from the wad of papers show. Orlin opened the door and led Link outside.
They walked down a plain white hallway lined with dozens of doors. Link tried to memorize every twist and turn in case he needed to escape. They turned a few corners and walked down other identical hallways, stopping at a door that had the number 101 printed on it. Orlin took a key out of his pocket and opened the door.
The second Link entered, Solo crashed into him and pulled him into a hug. Link winced and Solo backed off. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I’m a little sore,” Link said.
“I was so worried about you. When I saw that woman stab you, I thought you were going to die. But this Orlin guy was right. Thank you so much.” She hugged Orlin and he smiled at her.
“I’ll have meals brought in a few minutes,” Orlin said. “I showed them how to use everything here, so they’ll explain it to you. All of you should just relax. I’ll need to talk to you later, but that probably won’t be till morning. I’ll work on getting you home. I’m not going to leave you here stranded. If you need anything, just knock on the door. There will be a guard out there who will help you.” Orlin left and shut the door behind him.
“Link, you have to see the stuff here, it’s amazing,” Solo said with giddy excitement. She dragged him over to the kitchen and showed him the sink. “Okay, this is the sink. No big deal, right?”
“It’s no good, it has a hole in it,” Link pointed out. He looked curiously at a metal pipe that stuck out of the wall and pointed down toward the basin.
“Watch this,” Solo said with a smirk. She turned a knob and water flowed steadily out of the pipe. “You don’t have to pump it or anything; the water just keeps coming. And if you turn this other knob, the water gets hot. The more you turn it, the hotter it gets.” Solo played with the knobs, making the water hot, then cold, then hot again. “And it just goes down this hole. I don’t know where it goes.”
Link was amazed at the simple device. He played with it a bit until Solo urged him to follow her again. She took him to the opposite side of the room and opened a door to reveal a tiny room with a sink, bathtub, and toilet. Solo pointed to the sink. “This works the same way as the one in the kitchen.” Then she went to the bathtub. “This works like the sink, too. If you put that plug in the hole, you can fill up the tub and take a bath. And when you’re done you just pull the plug and the water goes away. You don’t have to heat up buckets of water or anything. It’s as hot as you want it. And this thing even has a rain machine!”
Link looked at her weirdly. “A rain machine?”
She nodded enthusiastically. She turned on the water then pulled a lever. The water stopped coming out of the faucet and started falling from another pipe near the ceiling. Link stuck his hand in the falling water; it was warm. “You can make your own rain. Isn’t that amazing? But that’s not the best part.” She turned off the shower and showed Link a circular object that was about knee-high. She lifted the lid and revealed a basin filled with water. There was a large hole at the bottom, but the water didn’t drain.
“Why would anyone need a basin this low?” Link asked. The shape and position of the fixture reminded Link of the holes in a latrine or outhouse. But the hole in this thing was far to small for that. “So what’s this for? Washing your feet or something?”
Solo giggled. “Nuh uh. You’re way off. You pee in this.”
It was in the right place to be a latrine, but Link couldn’t for the life of him figure out why it was full of water. “But it’s full of water,” he said, scratching his head. “It would fill up and spill everywhere.”
Solo smiled like she knew something he didn’t. “The water is to carry the waste away. You go in the bowl and push down that silver lever. Go ahead, try it.” Link pushed the lever and with a loud whoosh the water swirled down the hole. Not long after the bowl magically filled. “See. You go in there and push the lever, and everything goes away to wherever these holes lead to.”
Link nodded in amazement. “Yeah, but what if I have to...”
Solo interrupted him, knowing exactly what he was going to say, “You put the first lid down and you can sit on it when you have to poop.” She handed him a roll of toilet paper. “And you use this to wipe with it and put it in the bowl. And when you’re done you push the lever and whoosh it’s gone. Feel this paper, it’s like silk. I’m taking as much of this stuff back home with me as I can. I’m never using a corn cob again.”
“I have to pee,” Link said suddenly. He pushed at Solo. “Out.” Solo left Link alone and closed the door behind him.
“Hey Solo!” Railan called, waving Solo over to the dining table. The table had plates and glasses set for three and at the center was a whole roasted turkey. There were a couple bowls of vegetables, potatoes and a pitcher of milk.
“Great, I’m so hungry,” Solo said. She raced to the table and picked up a knife and started carving the turkey. She doled out portions to each plate and sat down to wait for Link. A moment later the bathroom door opened and Link came wandering out. His face brightened when he saw the food and he eagerly sat down to eat.
“This is a turkey, right?” he asked, examining the food closely before eating it.
“Tastes like it,” Solo mumbled with her mouth full, almost unintelligible.
“Good enough for me,” Link said. He wolfed down his meal, trying to quell his sudden raging hunger. For now he enjoyed his meal, trying not to think of the problems that he would soon have to face.
Orlin and the commander stood nervously outside a door with a sign that read Council Chambers. They were waiting for their signal to enter. “I hope the Council sees things as optimistically as you do,” the commander said.
“They will,” Orlin replied. “If anybody will understand it, they will.”
“The Council will see you now,” said a woman secretary, sitting behind a desk in the waiting room they were in. Orlin and the commander nodded and entered the council chambers. The room was large and lavishly decorated with plants and paintings. There was a large video screen on the wall at the front of the room, which displayed all the statistics for every operation in the entire complex. A long wooden table dominated the center of the room, behind which sat the council members. The Council consisted of seven members-four men and three-women, seated side-by-side on one side of the table.
“Please be seated,” said the councilor in the center. Orlin and the commander sat down and tried not to appear nervous. The Council rarely spoke to agents first hand. Most of their orders were handed down the chain of command. “We’ve read your reports. You did what you had to do, Agent Orlin. But we are at somewhat of a crossroads now. The whole purpose of this operation is to protect the past from tampering. Our entire existence has led to this moment.”
A female councilor, sitting to the far left, spoke up, “Our scans indicate that no ripples have yet propagated from the point of the incursion.” She pressed a button on her console and a graphic representing the timeline appeared on the wall screen. “There is a one hundred year arc starting from the incursion point that is showing no ripples. We know a change has occurred, but this change hasn’t affected history outside the hundred year arc. The timeline is essentially frozen. Do you know what can cause this kind of anomaly?”
“I’m not sure,” the commander replied.
The councilor continued, “When the focal point of a key event is changed or removed, it creates a bubble in time; constraining timeline changes to a relatively short period. However, the bubble will eventually burst and the entire timeline will change instantaneously. This only happens with an incursion factor of 9.9999 or higher. Level ten represents infinity. The higher the incursion factor, the slower it takes for the bubble to burst. We estimate that this bubble will burst in approximately fifteen days, present time.”
Another councilor, a man sitting third from the right, continued, “We’ve examined the bubble more closely and have a partial record of the events. It appears that the future, relative to the incursion point, changed three times simultaneously. Every change was initiated by the focal point: the young man named Link. We have reason to believe that he traveled three times before being taken here. First he was sent ten years from timeframe zero. Then at plus-forty years he was sent back thirty years to meet with his younger self at plus-ten years. Because their temporal signatures didn’t match the native timeline, no violation occurred.
“We believe that the future, relative plus-ten, was horrible enough for the plus-forty Link to travel back to warn plus-ten Link. Then the older Link sent the younger Link back to the time he was originally taken from, plus a day to resynchronize his temporal signature. The older Link returned to his time and resynchronized to his timeline.”
“Do we know why Link was sent ten years into his future to begin with?” asked the commander.
The councilor who was talking continued, “The woman you brought back, named Koros, was the perpetrator. She was trying to use the ancient time machine to both push Link out of the continuum, and retrieve several lost persons back into the continuum. She believed that removing Link from the timeline would prevent him from interfering with her plans for world domination. But she used the machine incorrectly, and ended up sending Link ten years into the future.
“After he returned to his time, he tried to interfere and the woman injured him. That leads us to the present.”
“Where did they find a time machine in the past?” asked the commander. “This machine was built thirty years ago.”
“We aren’t at liberty to say,” the councilor in the center said. A new graph with three peaks appeared on the wall screen. “This is the result of our timeline projections. The computers ran thirty trillion simulations and this is the average we came up with. As you can see, there are three probable outcomes as of now. Normally we only have one.
“The first possible outcome is that history will change by less than one percent, and things will remain basically the same. The second outcome is a return to a pre-stone-age tribal society. The third outcome is baffling. The computer gave us a ‘does not exist’ error. It’s like dividing by zero; there is no result. This means that our universe will cease to exist, or more accurately, never existed in the first place.”
The female councilor on the left spoke again, “Our mission has always been to prevent or repair changes to history. But ideally, if we could prevent time travel from even occurring in the first place, that would be the most prudent. He needs to be sent back to destroy the device in the past. Work on getting the core running again. Dismissed.”
Link had tried to make Solo sleep on the bed, but she had insisted that he use it. Then Railan had offered his bed to Solo, and she refused. She seemed quite content to sleep on the couch, so Link relented. Right now he was trying to fall asleep, but to no avail. Too many bizarre thoughts were running through his head. He still wondered if that vision of his father had been real.
“Hello Link,” said a voice. He sat up, startled, and looked at the intruder. It was the same man who had claimed to be his father. “I said I’d come back. Sorry it wasn’t sooner, but there were some things I had to do. I’m here now.”
“Are you real?” Link asked, reaching out to touch him. But when his hand reached his father’s body, it passed through him like he wasn’t even there. “What’s this...”
His father gave an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, but ascension sheds my body. I can be here in spirit, but not in flesh. The only way I could be here physically is if I descended; I would be mortal and lose all the knowledge I’ve gained. I can do far more this way.”
“Why did you put that book by the time machine?” Link asked.
“It caught your attention, didn’t it? You see, there are rules that the Ascendants have to follow, or they are cast out. Ascension is a higher level of existence, far greater than anything you could ever dream of. Every soul has the potential, but not necessarily the worth or ability. The whole universe is bound together by the life force. Life and death aren’t the only forms of existence. There are many subtle levels. Many souls remain on their worlds when their bodies die. Some join a kind of universal union of souls, what most religions would call ‘heaven’ or the afterlife. It’s a never-ending communion with others.”
“How is the afterlife different from ascension?” Link asked.
“The level of knowledge and capacity to learn. In the normal afterlife, a person’s knowledge can’t much exceed what they could have learned in life. Ascension is far, far greater. The level of understanding that an Ascendant has is incomprehensible. There are levels of ascension, from low to high. The goal of all Ascendants is to achieve true enlightenment. That is the goal of all life.”
“Have you reached enlightenment?” Link asked.
“No, I might never. No Ascendant has yet reached the level of true enlightenment. It’s an infinite struggle.”
“Why am I here now?”
“The woman, Koros, was trying to interfere with the natural order of things. Ganondorf is not just an evil madman, he used to be an Ascendant. He originally lived far in the past, and used his powers to eventually gain ascension. But when he did that, he helped his cronies ascend as well. They were a terrible group of people, responsible for atrocities that have never been duplicated in history. Their goal was to essentially enslave the universe. They were very clever in hiding their intentions, but the others eventually found out and cast them out. Ganondorf’s followers were doomed to exist in a spiritual state, stuck between physical life and ascension. They’re essentially stuck in a vast nothingness. Ganondorf was doomed to be reincarnated over and over again. Ganondorf, although he was the mastermind, was determined to be the least threatening. All of them had their memories wiped and were barred from ever ascending again. More importantly, Ganondorf’s knowledge of the true Triforce was removed. Some of the Ascendants have actively prevented him from ever gaining that knowledge.”
Link looked angry. “Do you have any idea what I went through to defeat him? And these self-righteous Ascendants decided to let him live endless lives? They should have destroyed him.”
His father held out his hand to calm Link. “Wait a minute, there’s more to it than that. A soul cannot be destroyed. It had to go somewhere. The Ascendants believed that stripping him of his knowledge and condemning him to repeated corporeal life was the best solution. His never-ending quest for the false Triforce would also help to reinforce the myth and protect the real power.”
“But what about all the people he’s killed!”
“That’s an unavoidable consequence. The Ascendants see the universe on a scale far bigger than you could imagine. That is why you are here. One of his followers, Koros, has discovered the truth about the Triforce. She has been tampering with history ever since. She is the reason why these people here built the time machine. She finally figured out what she had to do, but you got in the way.”
“I...my future self told me about a horrible future after I disappeared. He wanted to fix that. I did everything he said.”
His father gave a serious, solemn look. “It gets much worse after that. The whole goal of Koros’s plan was to allow Ganondorf and his followers to ascend again.”
“But you said that...”
“Yes, I said that the others would prevent him from ascending again. But it’s about numbers. It takes a majority vote to cast a member out. But it doesn’t take a vote to let people ascend for the first time. Ganondorf’s goal is to accumulate as many brainwashed souls as he can. Once he takes over the world, everyone will become his slave. He will hypnotize the people into following him, and he will keep all the souls in limbo until he has enough to form a majority. Once he has enough souls, they will all ascend at once. Since they will be under his control, and he has a majority vote, he will be able to cast out the other Ascendants. If that happens...I don’t even know. I can’t begin to fathom what would happen.”
“So these supposedly enlightened people would let him do something like that? Who’s the bad guy here?”
“Fighting him while he is descended is against the rules. Ascendants are not allowed to interfere with life in lower planes. It is the whole basis of ascension. If they interfered, then free will would cease to exist, and therefore true enlightenment would cease to exist. But the Ascendants aren’t all-knowing or all-powerful. They miss things. They can’t watch all the time. And that’s how people like me and my friends can protect non-ascended beings. For example, leaving that book for you was directly interfering with the lower world. They wouldn’t see something that small. Because we can’t interfere, it’s up to you to prevent this.”
Link grumbled. “Of course. It’s always up to me. Why am I always responsible for the fate of the world? I just want to live a normal life. I don’t want this responsibility.”
He could understand his son’s frustration. But he knew it had to be done. “I’m sorry, but some people are just destined for more. You’re one of them.”
“Wait...if you’re not allowed to interfere, then how come you’re here talking to me? Isn’t that interfering?”
His father smiled. “You would think so. But that’s one of those fuzzy things. It doesn’t qualify as direct interference. It’s more like a spiritual communion, which is allowed. But I’m walking a fine line. I don’t care what happens to me as long as you succeed.”
Link sighed. The duties of a hero never ended. He wished he didn’t have to fight, but he was prepared to do so if he had to. “All right. Tell me what to do.”
“The ancient time machine is very sophisticated and destroying it from the outside is nearly impossible. The only way is to use the time machine’s self-destruct. It’s very simple to activate, but you need the key. Unfortunately, the key was lost shortly after the original builders abandoned it. It has passed through numerous hands over the years, but no one ever knew what it was. The key was lost again thousands of years ago, but was recently found. Right now it’s in storage at the University of Hyrule, along with millions of other artifacts. It was found in an archaeological dig, and the scholars determined it to be of little historical value, so it’s in a box in a warehouse. You need to go there and speak to the head of the archaeology department. She will help you.”
“But how do I get out of here?” Link asked. “The door is locked, and there aren’t any windows.”
“This room wasn’t designed for security. You can escape through the vents. The vents will lead to a system of access tunnels normally used to reach hidden parts of the complex. Nobody ever goes into these tubes unless there’s a problem there. The tubes can also be used as emergency escape routes. It’s idiot-proof. The tubes are marked with red arrows that say ‘Escape’. Just follow the arrows and it will lead you outside. It’s in the middle of the city. People are friendly; tell them you’re a foreign student and you want to visit the University Museum. You took the money from that doctor right?”
Link’s eyes widened. “You knew about that?” His father nodded. “I just had a feeling that I would need it. But how do I use those things? They’re just pieces of paper.”
“Those papers have value in this time. Precious stones are only used for jewelry now. Rupees are used the same way as at home, except that here they use paper instead of jewels. There is a large white vent in the kitchen. Pry it off the wall and crawl down the shaft until you reach another vent; that one goes to the maintenance tubes. Bring Solo and Railan with you; you might need their help. Leave before morning, within the next hour.”
“Can you promise me one thing?” Link asked.
“Talk to Solo, she needs you.”
His father smiled. “Don’t worry, I already did. Now go and find the key. Once you get it, I will give you further instructions. I trust you, son.”
His father vanished. Link sat on the bed for a few minutes and pondered everything he’d been told. He didn’t want to do all these things and have so much responsibility for so many people. Why did the goddesses give him this fate? He yearned to have a normal, simple life. But every time he thought it was within reach, he had another mission to go on. Link took a deep breath and stood up to face his next challenge.
He left the bedroom and went to wake up Solo first. She had originally fallen asleep on the couch, but was now sprawled on the floor several feet from it. She was snoring lightly and muttering things in her sleep. “I love you Daddy...” she mumbled. Link smiled; his father must have come to her in a dream. He hoped it really was him, and not just an actual dream. Link nudged her with his foot. She grumbled and rolled over, but didn’t wake up. Link crouched and shook her shoulder.
Solo groaned and flailed her arms before finally waking up. “Daddy?” she asked sleepily.
“No, it’s me,” Link said. Solo opened her eyes and focused on him.
“Oh. I swear...he was just here. It must’ve been a dream.”
Link put his hand on her shoulder. “It wasn’t a dream. He really was here. He talked to me too. We have a mission to go on.”
“That’s what he told me,” Solo said. “He said to follow you and help you.” She smiled contentedly. “And he said he loved me.”
“We have to go. Take anything we might need and wait in the kitchen. I’ll go wake up Railan.” Link went to the other room to get Railan. He was lying on the bed face-first with one arm hanging over the side. Link shook him gently.
“No mama, I don’t wanna dig up potatoes today,” Railan mumbled. Link shook harder and Railan awoke with a start. “What? Huh?” He looked around in confusion for a moment until he remembered where he was. “Oh yeah. What do you want? Is it time to get up?”
“Yes.” Link looked at Railan and realized that he was still wearing his clothes and shoes. “Well, you’re dressed, so that’s good. Come on, we have to escape.” Link grabbed Railan’s hand and pulled him out of bed. Railan followed reluctantly.
“Wait...what? Why are we escaping?”
“Because I have a mission to complete.”
“Mission? Do you ever have a normal day?”
“Not really,” Link replied. He met Solo in the kitchen and looked for the vent. He finally found it near the floor. It looked just barely wide enough to fit through. “I need to get this grate off.” He looked closely and saw that it was attached with screws. He dug through one of the drawers and found a blunt-tipped knife. With a few muttered curses, Link took out the screws and pried the panel off.
“We have to go through there?” Railan said in a disappointed tone.
“Yeah, everyone follow me.” Link crawled in first, followed by Railan, then Solo. The vent was a tight squeeze, but they managed to crawl through it. It was only about twenty feet until they reached a large grate at the end of the shaft. Link looked through the grate and saw the crawlspace his father told him about. Link awkwardly turned his body and kicked the grate hard. It flew out and landed with a clang. Link squeezed through the hole, and helped Railan and Solo.
The maintenance tubes were about four feet high, not high enough to stand up, but enough to move easily. “I’m looking for red arrows...” Link said, looking everywhere. He saw a long, red stripe with Escape printed below it, and arrows pointing toward the left. “Let’s go this way. We’re following the stripe that says ‘Escape’.” Railan and Solo both groaned and followed Link, crawling on their hands and knees. The crossed intersecting tubes and turned several corners before coming out into a cylindrical open space about seven feet high and four feet in diameter. There was a large red sign on the wall that said Emergency Escape Hatch and a large arrow pointing up. There was a ladder that went so far down that he couldn’t see the bottom. He looked up and could barely see a round opening at the top; it was at least thirty levels up. Link grabbed the rungs and motioned for them to follow. “We’re going up,” Link said.
“I don’t suppose this is a good time to mention that I don’t like high places, is it?” Railan complained.
“Just take it one step at a time,” Solo said. “Link will be above you and I’ll be below you. You’ll be fine.” Railan took a deep breath and started climbing. They made slow, but steady progress upwards. Railan didn’t want to admit how nervous he was, so he tried to hide it. He thought pleasant thoughts and kept telling himself it was just a few more steps. After ten minutes of climbing, or halfway to eternity from Railan’s perspective, they reached the top of the ladder.
The room they were in was small and square. At the opposite end from the ladder was a stairway that led to a door on the ceiling. Link walked up the stairs and examined the door. It was idiot-proof. A sign said Turn Wheel Counterclockwise to Unlock. Push Door Up to Open. Link followed the instructions and opened the door. They stepped out into another dimly-lit room, but this one was much larger. Boxes and other miscellaneous junk were strewn about.
“Do these dark rooms ever end?” Railan whined.
Link pointed to the red arrows on the ground. “We follow those.” They walked a few more feet until they came to a single flight of stairs that led to a door. The sign on the door said Fire Exit. Link opened the door and they stepped out into an alley between two buildings. A light breeze of cool air made them sigh with relief.
“Finally, we’re outside!” Railan cheered, holding his arms up in celebration. They followed the alley out to the street and their eyes widened in awe at what stood before them. All of the buildings seemed to be made of glass, and were unimaginably tall. None of them had ever seen a building that tall. And all of the buildings were huge. The street stretched on seemingly forever in both directions, and both sides were lined with buildings.
It was early morning, just after dawn, but there were many people out and about. They wore strange-looking clothes in colors that none of them had ever seen before. Link found it strange that people were walking only on the pale-colored part of the street, and not the black part. The only thing he could think of was that the wider black part was for carriages only. Solo jumped back in shock when a huge mechanical beast whizzed by at a speed faster than anything they’d ever seen. They watched in amazement as more of the machines rolled by. They vaguely resembled carriages, because they had four wheels, and the size was about the same. But the similarities ended there. They were made of glass and metal and came in every color. They could see people inside the machines, but there was no indication of how the things were supposed to move. There were no horses, oxen, mules or anything that could possibly pull them. The machines made loud rumbling noises that sounded unlike any animal.
“What are these things?” Solo asked, her initial fear wearing off. Now she watched the machines with curiosity.
“Some kind of carriage, I guess,” Link replied.
“Did you see how fast those things were going?” Railan said with amazement. “I’m not walking in the street if those things are going to be flying by.”
“Good idea,” Link said. They stayed close together and noticed that a lot of people gave them weird looks. “I think we’re really sticking out. Everyone is staring at us.”
A group of men walked by and one of them made a joke about the circus being in town. “What’re you looking at!” Solo growled at them. Link patted her shoulder to calm her down.
“Don’t worry about them,” Link assured her. “Nobody knows who we are. This is obviously a gigantic city, there’s bound to be lots of people who look out-of-place.”
“I’m kind of hungry,” Solo said. “Where do people get food around here? I don’t see a single fruit cart or anything.”
“There has to be a restaurant or something,” Railan said. “People need to eat.” They wandered around looking for any kind of sign of a restaurant or food vendor.
“This place really is loud,” Link commented. He’d never heard so much noise in his entire life. But he noticed that no one else seemed to mind the never-ending rumble. Link suddenly stopped and motioned for Solo and Railan to look through the giant window in the building next to them. “There’s people eating in there, they had to get the food from somewhere.” They saw dozens of people sitting at tables, eating and chatting away. They walked to a door made of glass and read the sign above that said Good Eats.
“Definitely a restaurant,” Solo said. She opened the door and stepped inside, followed by Link and Railan. There was a long counter in the back with a line of people waiting behind it. A sign on the ceiling said simply Order Here. Link watched what the other people were doing to get an idea of how to get his food. A person would step up to the counter and tell a lady something, they would exchange pieces of rupee paper, and the person would step off to the side. A person behind the counter called out numbers and the people who had stepped to the side came up and took trays of food.
“What kind of food do they have?” Solo asked, wondering where the waiters and menus were.
“Look, there’s a list on the wall,” Railan said, pointing to the menu. The items were listed with numbers, the name of the meal, and the price.
“What’s a ‘Zora Surprise’?” Link asked to no one in particular. “I certainly hope Zoras aren’t considered food here; that’d be horrible.” He sighed in frustration. “I’ve never heard of any of these foods before.”
“Hmm...’Double Beef Patty’ sounds edible,” Solo said. “It’s the only thing on the menu that I can recognize.” The other two nodded in agreement. “It says ‘beef’, so it has to be food.” The line moved quickly and it was finally their turn.
“Yeah, what can I get ya?” asked the girl behind the counter, in a voice that showed her obvious apathy.
“We’ll have three double beef patties,” Link replied.
The girl pushed a couple buttons on the machine in front of her. “You want fries with that?”
“Fries? Um...yeah sure.”
The woman punched a couple more buttons. “What would you like to drink?”
Link hadn’t thought of that. “I don’t know...how about milk?”
She punched another button. “Anything else?” The three shook their heads. “Okay, that’ll be ten thirty-seven.” Link took the wad of folded bills out of his pocket. Link wondered if she had really meant one thousand thirty-seven rupees.
“Pardon me,” Link asked. “How much was it?”
The girl sighed. “Ten rupees and thirty-seven fractions.” Link had never heard of a rupee being divided by fractions. He sorted through the bills until he found one that said Twenty Rupees. He handed to the woman, and she opened a drawer, put the money in, and handed him back a few pieces of paper and some coins. A slip of paper came out of the machine and she gave it to Link. “Your order number is forty-two.” Link took the paper and they stepped to the side as all the other people had done.
“How long do you think it’ll take?” Railan asked. “I don’t want to stand here for an hour while they make the food.”
“Everybody else is standing, so maybe they make it really fast,” Link said. So they waited for about three minutes until they heard their number called. Link went to the counter and took the tray. The group found an empty table and sat down. All three of them looked at the tray with mild curiosity. There were no plates or utensils. Instead, there were three round things wrapped in yellow paper, three small boxes with golden-brown things sticking out of them, and three small paper cartons that said Milk.
“I thought this was supposed to be food,” Railan said with a frown. He picked up one of the paper bundles and was relieved when it felt soft and warm. “Why would they wrap it in paper?” He unwrapped the paper and peered at the “food” in front of him. It consisted of two pieces of bread with two pieces of meat in the middle. He lifted the bread and saw a red sauce, what looked like cheese, and a slice of some green vegetable. “Doesn’t look too bad. Are there forks or anything?”
Link looked around and noticed that no one was using any utensils. People eating the same thing that they ordered were using their hands. “I think we’re supposed to use our hands.” Link took a sandwich for himself and gave the other to Solo. All three of them took bites at the same time.
“Hey, this is pretty good,” Solo said in surprise. She grabbed one of the boxes and ate on of the long golden strings. “Oh, these things are potatoes.” Link and Railan looked relieved and ate their fries.
After finishing their meals, they left the restaurant and went back on the street. “So how do we find the University?” Solo asked. “I don’t see any signs. I wish we had a map.”
“We should ask somebody,” Railan suggested. They searched for a friendly-looking person, but didn’t have much luck. Everybody seemed oblivious to everyone else. They turned a corner and Solo squealed with joy when she saw a horse and carriage sitting at the side of the road. Happy to finally see a familiar sight, they all rushed to the carriage. There was a sign on the side of the carriage that said Return to the Past-Take a Relaxing Horse Ride.
Link cleared his throat to get the horseman’s attention. “Excuse me sir, can you tell us where the University is?”
The man gave a friendly smile. “I sure can, sonny. It’s on thirteenth street. It’s ten blocks east.” The man looked at the three young adults. “Kids these days take things too fast. How about a good old-fashioned carriage ride? I’ll take all three of you to the University for half price, only twenty-five rupees.”
Link smiled in return. “We’d absolutely love that.” The driver bowed and opened the door for them. The climbed inside and sat in surprisingly comfortable seats.
“Thank the goddesses,” Solo said. “They have horses in this world.”
Link, Solo, and Railan waved at the carriage driver as he left. They were standing in front of huge wrought-iron gates that said University of Hyrule at the top. “This place is much bigger than the one from our world,” Link commented. They walked down the main path and gazed at all of the huge buildings. “I’d give anything for a map,” Link muttered.
Railan tapped Link’s shoulder and pointed to a rectangular glass case with a big sign on top that said Map. “I think that might be a map,” Railan said dryly. Link glared at him and went to look at the map. He looked at the list of buildings and searched for Archaeology. He found the building on the list and they went off to find it.
“So what are we doing exactly?” Solo asked.
“We have to find the head of the archaeology department,” Link replied. “She will be able to help us find the key I need to destroy that machine.” They walked the rest of the distance in silence, gazing awe-struck at the variety of architecture. Some of the buildings were giant, square boxes; while others were bizarre flowing shapes. If they hadn’t been in such a hurry, they could have stayed there for hours admiring the buildings. They finally arrived at the archaeology building, which looked like a huge temple. Link liked this building; it looked familiar.
They walked inside the building and were greeted by a cheery old lady sitting behind a desk. “Hi there! Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes, please,” Link replied. “I’m looking for the head of the archaeology department.”
The woman nodded. “Ah yes. That’s Doctor Saria Kiri. Her office is room 303, and the lecture hall is right next to that. Take that stairway to the left and go to the third floor. Her office is directly across from the stairs.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” Link replied politely. They walked down the hall to the stairs.
“It’s kind of weird that she has Saria’s name,” Solo said.
“It could be a coincidence,” Railan said. “It might be a popular name.”
“Maybe, but what’s really weird was that they lady said her name was Saria Kiri,” Link said. “The word Kokiri means ‘forest people’. Kiri means ‘forest’. That’s kind of weird.”
“Well, maybe the professor is a Kokiri,” Solo suggested. “It’s possible.”
“All I care about is if she can help us,” Link said, picking up the pace. He suddenly felt a sense of urgency, and he always trusted his intuition.
The professor was a very young-looking girl, who looked no older than twelve or thirteen. But that was common for a Kokiri; they all looked that way. She had waist-length hair that was dyed green. The color wasn’t a solid green, but a combination of several different shades melded into a textured pattern. She was standing at the head of a small auditorium, lecturing to a group of two hundred students. Her fairy was fluttering around the room, gather the students’ late homework papers.
“Seriously, people. Is it really that hard to turn in your papers on time?” Her fairy flew over to her desk and deposited the last paper into a box. The fairy sighed and plopped onto the desk, leaning against the box to relax. “Now everybody listen up. Your projects are due next week, so you adrenaline junkies better get started. And remember that tomorrow is the premiere of the new exhibit about the old Hyrule Castle. You should check it out, there’s a lot of really great stuff there. Okay, class dismissed, everyone get out of here.”
There was a loud commotion as the students left the auditorium. When everyone had left, Saria sat down at her desk and sighed in relief. “I swear, the kids get worse every year.”
“One of them swatted at me again,” her fairy complained. “The next time someone does that, I’m going to pull their hair out.”
Saria laughed. Most people treated her fairy like any other normal person, but others insisted on seeing her as a pest. Saria was going to reply, until she saw three people wander into the auditorium. She stood up to go greet them. “Can I help you guys?” Saria called out to them.
Link suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. The voice was unmistakable. He walked closer to the green-haired girl, trying to make out her face. The face looked exactly like the Saria he remembered. She looked a couple years older, and had longer hair, but everything else is the same. “Saria? Is that really you?” Link asked in disbelief.
“Link!” Saria exclaimed, running to him and hugging him tightly. “Oh, it’s been so long.”
“How could you possibly be here?” Solo asked.
“I’ve been around for quite some time,” Saria replied. She gestured for them to follow her. “Come into my office, we can talk there.”
The group followed Saria out of the auditorium and into a large, lavishly decorated room. There were many pieces of expensive leather furniture, and hundreds of historical artifacts. Saria sat down in a comfortable chair and the others found seats of their own. “It’s great to see you again,” Saria said. “I’ve been waiting for this day for almost forever.”
“I suppose you know more about this than I do,” Link said.
“Not really. You told me all about what happened to you on this adventure.”
“So that means I’ll succeed?” Link asked.
Saria smiled wryly. “You always succeed. Actually, you gave me specific instructions not to tell you what you told me.” Link gave her a blank stare. Saria chuckled. “Okay, when you got back into your normal time, you told me about this adventure. Then you said you met me in the future, and that I was going to help you. But you made it very clear that you couldn’t tell me what I had to do, that only the you right now could. It has something to do with preserving the timeline. You told me to tell you that when you get back, you can tell me everything except what I would have to do for you.”
All three of them stared at her, dumbfounded. “My brain hurts,” Railan moaned.
“I’m not quite sure if I understand...” Link said.
Saria sighed. “All right. I don’t know what I have to do. When you get home, you can tell me this story, except for what you want me to do right now.”
Link nodded. “Oh, okay, I get it.”
Saria gave a nervous laugh. “You know, I never thought that any of this would actually happen. I thought I would live my life in the Kokiri Forest, happily enjoying a carefree existence. It’s amazing how things change.”
Link frowned. The tone of her voice suggested she had been through some bad times. “I hope nothing bad happened to you. But I guess a lot of things can happen in…. Goddesses, how many years has it been? I don’t even know how far we’ve traveled.”
“A little over two thousand years,” Saria said matter-of-factly.
Railan’s eyes widened. “We went two thousand years into the future?” He mulled over that fact for a minute, until another thought hit him. “Wait...that means you are two thousand years old, right?”
Saria nodded. “Yes, it’s a nice, ripe old age. Most people wouldn’t believe me though. It’s amazing to be living through history. That’s why I became an archaeologist; since I lived through so much, I could study so much more. A lot of things have happened over the years. For a while, I was the only Kokiri left.”
Link’s face saddened. “Oh no...they didn’t die, did they?”
Saria quickly shook her head and calmed him. “No, no. It’s not like that. A hundred years or so after your time, a great flood engulfed Hyrule. The Kokiri were forced to change physical form and relocate. They adopted a more plant-like form in order to survive in their new world. Some Kokiri changed into fairies, and others went back to the spiritual realm. I told the Great Deku Tree that I wanted to remain in my human form. I was allowed to, but I had to stay hidden.
“I traveled the world for centuries; enjoying all of the cultures and peoples. After a few centuries, Hyrule was returned to its past glory. Ganondorf periodically resurfaced to cause trouble, but a hero like you always appeared to fight him. After a long time, the world began to change. Amazing new technologies were invented and science advanced at a fantastic pace. It was about five hundred years ago when the Kokiri returned to human form, and they were instrumental in creating a fantastic new world. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the awesome machines that have been invented, and are now a part of everyday life. But you haven’t seen the half of it. Medicine is so far ahead of what you’re used to that you would think it’s magic. People don’t die of infections anymore, women rarely die in childbirth, and people live much longer than the old days.”
“It must’ve been amazing to live through that,” Solo said.
“How come you look older now?” Link asked.
“After the Kokiri took on human form again, the Great Deku Tree let us choose to remain young, or to age. I chose to grow a few years in human terms, but not to adulthood. I wanted to be a little taller. There’s fifty thousand Kokiri now, and most of us are still like children.”
“I wish we had time to explore this new world,” Link said with a sigh. “But we have more important things to do. You need to help us find some kind of key. My father told me that it was in a box somewhere in the museum, in storage or something.”
Saria concentrated and thought for a moment. “Hmm...I’ve been through so many artifacts, that I wouldn’t know where to begin. But I guess there’s only one way to find out.” She stood up and motioned for the others to follow. “I’ll take you to the museum, and we’ll check everything there. It’s only a short walk.”
It only took about ten minutes to walk to the museum. When they entered, Railan, Link, and Solo stared in shock at the absolutely monstrous skeletons on display. “Good goddesses!” Railan exclaimed. “What are those things?” He pointed at a skeleton that was over two stories tall, and had long razor-sharp teeth. “If monsters like this live in the future, I’m not looking forward to it.”
Saria chuckled. “Oh, no. Don’t worry about those. Those creatures existed long ago, before there were even people. Come on, I’ll take you to the storeroom.” They followed Saria to a door that opened to a staircase. They went down the stairs and opened the door to a room of gargantuan proportions. The ceiling was about twenty feet high, and the room was arranged with neat rows of shelves that went all the way to the top.
Link’s face fell. “We have to search all of this?” he asked. “We’ll be here for years!”
“Calm down,” Saria said. “Everything is arranged by subject and historical period.”
Link scratched his head. “Well, this key is from an ancient time machine that was supposedly built millions of years ago. Do you have boxes of stuff that old?”
“That stuff might not be classifiable. We have an area for miscellaneous stuff that doesn’t fall into any category. We should look there first.” Saria led them to a far corner of the warehouse. Saria pointed to shelves of stuff that wasn’t organized or classified. “Dig through this stuff here. But please be careful and don’t break anything. Some of this stuff might still be important.”
“Look for something metal, that in any was resembles a key,” Link told everyone. They each took a box and looked through it. Link couldn’t believe some of the stuff he found in the box. There were shards of pottery, buttons from shirts, and other things he couldn’t identify. “This is all junk.”
Saria seemed to be mildly offended by that comment. “Hey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Link pulled a familiar object out of the box and showed it to Saria. “Is a knitting needle really treasure?” he asked sarcastically. Saria rolled her eyes and gestured for him to get back to work.
Everybody searched through box after box of junk. Everyone’s attention was piqued when Railan yelped in surprise. They quickly looked over to him to see what he’d found. “Hey, look!” He held up a rubbery toy with hundreds of rubber tendrils that made it look like an urchin. It was attached to an elastic string and Railan twirled and bounced it.
Everyone else’s shoulders slumped and they went back to work. “What?” Saria said, annoyed. “Who put that in there? That’s just a stupid toy, that shouldn’t be in here.”
“Can I keep it?” Railan asked.
Saria rolled her eyes. “Fine, go ahead.” Railan smiled and continued digging.
They searched for several hours more, but came across nothing that even resembled a key. But Solo finally stumbled onto something. “Hey, what’s this thing?” Solo asked, holding up a shiny metal object. It was cylinder attached to a square handle with dozens of protrusions sticking out of it. “It kind of looks like a key.” She handed it to Link and he examined it closely.
“I think this might be it,” he said. Something inside him told him that this little artifact was what he needed. He had to trust his intuition.
Saria took the key from Link and examined it. “I remember this,” she said. “It was found in a dig about ten years ago, and no one knew what it was. We did tests on it, and couldn’t even determine what it was made of.” She handed the key back to Link. “So this belongs to a million-year-old time machine?” Link nodded. “That’s amazing. The oldest records of civilization we’ve found were fifteen thousands years old at most. But millions? We didn’t think that people even existed back then. We’ve never found any evidence of anything that old. You think there would be something left-some artifacts or something. Whoever these people were, they disappeared without a trace.”
“Now that we have this key, I don’t know what to do next,” Link said.
Saria was about to speak when a beeping noise came from her pocket. She pulled out at thin, rectangular object and put it to her ear. “Hello?” She said. “Orlin? What can I help you with?” Saria’s eyes wandered as she listened to the voice on the other end. The others gave her strange looks and she gestured for them to be quiet. “Yes, you’re right. They did come here.” Another pause. “No, they haven’t caused any trouble. They needed to find an artifact. You know all of this was destined to happen. I told the Council this when they first built the machine.” She listened again and sighed. “I wouldn’t worry about contamination of the timeline. But I guess that’s up to the Council to decide. I’ll bring them back right away.” Saria put the object back into her pocket and saw the confused looks on everyone’s faces.
“What was that?” Link asked.
“It’s one of the wonderful technologies I told you about. It’s a telephone. It enables you to talk to anyone anywhere.”
“Wow,” Link said simply. “I wish I had one of those.”
Saria sighed. “Well, I’m sorry to say this, but I have to take you back to the time machine. They’ve been looking for you.”
Link nodded. “I understand. I figured we’d have to go back there. But how did they know to talk to you?”
“I was on the team that helped build the machine. I was their main historian, and they still contact me when they need information on certain past periods. Now that we’ve found what we need, we can proceed with the next part of the mission.” Link wondered how much she knew about what he had to do, but decided not to ask. “We can take my car to the headquarters, come on.”
Saria led them out of the museum, and down the winding sidewalks of the campus. They stopped at a huge plot of land filled with dozens of the glass and metal machines that they’d seen zooming down the streets before. Saria led them to a forest green colored machine with four doors. Railan, Solo, and Link stopped, hesitant to step into the machine.
“I don’t really want to go into one of those things,” Link said warily.
“They go so fast,” Railan said in amazement.
Saria forgot that they’d never seen an automobile before. “Don’t worry, it’s safe,” she insisted. “They only use horses now for racing and old-fashioned rides. These automobiles go much faster, and if you learn how to use them, they’re very safe.” Saria opened the front passenger door for Link, then opened the back door for Solo and Railan. She showed everyone the seatbelts and made sure they were securely fastened before she got into the driver’s seat. The others were shaking nervously. “Calm down, everything will be fine.” The engine purred to life and Saria pulled out of the parking spot.
Link looked curiously around the interior, wondering what all the knobs and switches did. Although they were spooked by the vehicle’s speed, they eventually calmed down when they realized Saria wasn’t going to get them killed. “How does this thing work?” Link asked curiously. “How can this thing move if nothing’s pulling or pushing it?”
“It’s a little complicated to explain,” Saria replied. “There are a lot of mechanical things that go on inside to make everything move. Basically, it’s self-propelled. It uses something called an engine. You put a fuel in it-something similar to lamp oil-and the engine burns it. The burning process creates energy that ends up turning the wheels. I really can’t explain more without teaching you hundreds of years worth of science.”
Link seemed satisfied with the answer. He didn’t expect to understand how all this future technology worked. He settled back in his seat and looked out the window at the amazing sights of the city. Everything here was so fast. He couldn’t understand why people could possibly need everything so fast. But perhaps everyone were used to it.
Saria stopped the vehicle in front of one of the many impossibly tall buildings. The second the car stopped, Railan flung the door opened and rushed outside. He fell to his knees on the sidewalk and raised his hands into the air. “Praise the goddesses! Solid ground!” He kissed the ground a couple of times before standing back up.
Solo looked a little pale, but not too shaken. “I don’t think I want to ride in that again,” Solo said.
“Come this way,” Saria said, leading everyone into the building. Saria smiled at a perky young woman sitting behind the reception desk. “Hi, Sati.”
“Good evening, professor,” replied the girl. “They’ve been expecting you.”
Saria nodded and walked through the main entryway and down one of the many hallways. She stopped at what looked like a white door with no knob. Next to the door was a keyhole and small buttons with numbers on them. Saria inserted the key and turned it, causing the buttons to light up. She punched in a code and turned the key back to its original position. The was a ding sound and the doors slid sideways to reveal a small, box-shaped room. “Step inside,” Saria said. Link, Solo, and Railan nervously entered, wondering what this room was for. Saria stepped inside and the doors closed behind her. She pushed a button and there was the sudden jolt of movement. “Don’t worry. This is an elevator. This little room is attached to cables and pulleys pull it up or down a shaft. It’s used to get to different floors of the building.”
The motion stopped and the three felt their stomachs sink. “Ugh,” Solo moaned, looking like she was ready to vomit. The doors opened and they left. The room the entered was quite small and made of dull, gray concrete. At the opposite side of the room were another set of elevator doors and a regular door.
“This is another elevator. It’ll take us very deep underground. Take a deep breath and relax.” She inserted a key and punched the code like before. Then she leaned forward and a light flashed on her eyes. There was a ding and the doors opened to another box-shaped room that was twice as big as the first one. They stepped inside and the doors closed. Their stomachs turned when the elevator moved again and Solo groaned. “We’re almost done.”
When the elevator stopped, Link, Railan, and Solo hurried out of it. They were in a long, white hallways with a man sitting behind a desk. “Welcome back, Professor,” the man said. “Please identify yourself to the scanner.” Saria put her hand on a glass plate until it beeped. “Thank you. Are these three the escapees?”
Saria nodded. “Yes. I’ve brought them back.” A door opened and the man waved them through. Orlin was waiting on the other side.
“You’re very clever, I have to admit that,” Orlin said. “I suppose it was my fault for putting you in a non-secure area. But that’s not important right now. I’ll have someone take your friend and sister to their rooms; you and Saria need to come with me. The Council wants to speak to you.”
Solo and Railan gave Link nervous looks. “Don’t worry,” Link said. “Stay put and I’ll be back soon.” They nodded and a couple guards led them away.
“Follow me,” Orlin said, motioning for Link and Saria to follow.
“The Council will see you now,” said the secretary, pointing to the door.
“Go in, I have to stay behind,” Orlin said. Link and Saria entered the Council chambers and saw seven people sitting behind a long table.
“Saria, it’s good to see you again,” said the councilor in the center. “And Link, it’s a pleasure to meet you finally. Let me introduce myself and the others. My name is Dalek. And starting on the left there are Jolinar, Selmak, Jaden, Damen, Kati, and Tera. We currently act as the Temporal Council. We are responsible for monitoring the timeline and correcting changes that criminals have caused. And Koros has by far caused the most trouble. It hasn’t affected us yet, but we don’t have much time left.”
“You’re the Guardians, aren’t you?” asked Link. “You’re their successors or something.”
“That’s correct. We’ve kept a low profile for generations, silently protecting the power of the Triforce. But about forty years ago, Jolinar had a vision. In her vision, she saw a bleak and horrible world, in which all the peoples of the world were enslaved and tortured. At the center of this world was Ganondorf, ruling on a throne of skulls.”
“I didn’t know what to think of it at first,” said Jolinar, continuing the story. “We knew that Ganondorf would resurface from time to time, but that his power would be limited. A hero like you always emerges to vanquish him; it’s a never-ending cycle. But this was far worse. We believed at first that he may have somehow discovered the true Triforce.”
Dalek spoke again, “But it was worse than that. I believe someone told you about ascension, right? And about how Koros was trying to enable Ganondorf to seek ascension again?”
Link nodded. “Yes, my father appeared to me and told me this.”
“So you are aware of the problems that he could cause. The true purpose of the Triforce was two-fold. It was designed to imprison the most evil of gods, Daimanius. You were destined to destroy him. But the other purpose is to grant the powers of ascension. But by hiding the Triforce, we hid the secret of ascension from the people. The first Guardians were the first of our modern races to ascend. Although the other Ascendants frown on it, they help people to ascend by their own power, without the Triforce.
“But the Triforce is not the object of interest here. The time machine is what matters. Never before has a piece of man-made technology been used to affect the universe on a grand, spiritual scale. I want you to look at something.” Dalek left the big table and went to a cabinet at the back of the room. He returned with two large books, and showed them to Link. “Do these look familiar at all?”
“These are those books from the time machine,” Link said. “I brought them back with me, hoping I could learn something from them. But they vanished without a trace.”
“The books were in the wrong time. But inanimate objects take longer to snap back to their original time. The books appeared in a random place. After Jolinar had her vision, we checked the museums for clues. These books were sitting in boxes in the warehouse that Saria showed you. Someone had discovered them a long time ago, and since no one could read them, they were put away and forgotten about. We essentially re-discovered them. They turned out to be designs for a time machine. We used the books to build our own machine. The secret couldn’t be kept forever, and a few bad people tried to change history. We officially started an agency to police history.”
“I knew that you would appear sometime in the future,” Saria said. “The story you told me made me stay on alert. But I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, because you purposely kept your story vague.”
“Yes, that is why when you return, you mustn’t tell the important details to anyone,” Dalek warned him. “The basic story of these events won’t change anything, but you can’t be specific about the secret things.”
“So what is it I have to do?” Link asked. “All I know is that I have to destroy the ancient time machine.”
“Yes, and the key you found is one of the things you need,” Dalek said. “But it has to be activated far in the past, just before it is abandoned. The key you found is one of three that are needed to destroy the machine. The first one was stolen before the self-destruct could be activated; that is the key you have right now. Ganondorf himself sent the key far into the future to hide it. The other keys will still exist in the past with the machine.”
“Who built this thing?” Link asked.
“They are an ancient race that we call the Progenitors. They were an extremely advanced race that vanished in a great catastrophe about two million years ago. The time machine was the only thing that survived, because it has special forces that protect it. Ganondorf was originally a member of that race, and so was Koros. You must go back and fight them. Once you do that, you must take the key and activate the self-destruct.”
“How do I destroy it?”
Dalek pointed to the screen on the wall, and an image of a long, cylindrical object appeared. “This is the self-destruct device. It’s basically a huge bomb with power far greater than anything you could ever imagine.”
“I’ll go back, and I’ll destroy it,” Link said firmly.
“You cannot do it alone,” Dalek said. “The bomb needs three people to activate it. Your friends will have to help you.”
“No. I’m not going to risk their lives like that.”
“You must,” Saria said. “If you don’t, then everyone you know will die anyways. There is no other choice. Not only will you save your own life, but you save the past, a future past. The whole of history is in your hands.”
“We’ll give you a tracker so you can come back,” added Jolinar. “Once you activate the self-destruct, we will use the tracker to return you to your own time.”
“Tell me everything I need to know,” Link said, steeling himself for what was to come.
“Link sure is taking his sweet time,” Solo complained. They were sitting on couches in their quarters, idly chatting the hours away.
“I’m sure it’s really important,” Railan said.
“Link gets to do all the interesting stuff, I just get stuck in the middle.”
“I think I’ve had enough excitement to last a lifetime. I’d much rather live in my time than here. Everything’s way too fast and complicated.”
“I agree,” Solo said. “But if I could bring something back, it would definitely be toilet paper. It’s better than silk, I swear.”
“I don’t know. I’d much rather have the bathtub with the magic hot water. That would be much nicer. It’d be so much better than heating a pot of water on the stove and dumping it in the tub.”
“I wouldn’t need that anyways,” Solo said. “There’s hot spring in the Kokiri Forest.”
“Oh, that must be great.”
“Yeah, it is. There’s nothing more relaxing than soaking in the hot spring. I go there all the time.” Railan’s eyes wandered and he appeared to be in a daydream. “You’re imagining me naked, aren’t you?”
Railan’s face turned red and he felt mortified. “What...I...no, that’s not what I was thinking. Not that you wouldn’t look good naked but....” He realized what he’d said and felt even more embarrassed. “No! Not that...you’re my friend’s sister, and my boss’s friend, so that’s kind of like you being my sister, and...”
“Calm down, calm down,” Solo said, stifling her laughter. “I was just joking. I didn’t mean for you to take that seriously.”
Railan calmed down a little. “Sorry. It wouldn’t seem right to think of you that way. Besides, Link said you already had a boyfriend.”
She gave a confused look. “He said that? Are you sure?”
“Yeah, he said you were already involved with someone.”
Solo chuckled. “Oh, okay, I understand. But he didn’t specifically say ‘boyfriend’, did he?”
“Well, no. What’s the difference?”
“I don’t have a boyfriend. She’s a girlfriend.”
Railan looked confused and tried to figure out what she meant. Then he finally got it and his eyes went wide. “Oh...So you like another girl...that way. I see.” His cheeks tinged pink a little. “That’s interesting. I’ve never met a girl that was like that before.”
Solo stared at the floor, worried about what he might think. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you or anything. It’s not something that most people talk about. I’m sure Malon would want me talking about us...” Railan’s jaw dropped in shock and Solo covered her mouth, realizing that she’d said that aloud.
“Wow! You and Malon?” He got lost in thought for a moment, then nodded his head. “I guess I can see that. You two seem to get along really well.”
“So, that doesn’t bother you?”
He shook his head. “No. Besides, you would be off limits because you’re my friend’s sister, and Malon would be off limits because she’s my boss. So even if I was interested in you, my honor wouldn’t let me pursue it. Not that I wouldn’t be interested in either of you, because you’re both really pretty and nice...so...” He trailed off when Solo giggled. “Sorry, just tell me to shut up if I do that.”
“No, it’s kind of cute. Link does that a lot. You just haven’t seen it yet.”
As if on cue, the door to their quarters opened and Link and Saria entered. They both went to one of the chairs and sat down. “We’ll be going home soon,” Link said. Railan and Solo breathed sighs of relief. “Don’t get all excited yet. We have work to do. I’m going to have to fight again.”
“We’ll help you,” Solo said confidently.
“Yeah, I’ll help,” added Railan. “I’m sure there’s something I can do.”
“No, I’ll do it,” Link said adamantly. “I’m used to working alone. You two need to come with me because I’ll need three people to turn on the bomb that’ll destroy the time machine. But I’ll do the fighting, you two can stay safe till it’s over.”
Solo looked determined. “I’m not going to let you do this alone when I’m perfectly capable of helping.”
“I know how to fight a little,” Railan said. “If I have to, I’ll just hit somebody with a rock.”
“Link, I don’t think you can convince them not to help,” Saria said in her motherly tone. “If the situation was reversed, you’d do the same thing.”
Link slumped his shoulders and sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. But if they got hurt, I’d never forgive myself. And I’ve only known Railan for a few days; how can I possibly ask him to risk his life for something I have to do?”
“I’ll do it,” Railan said firmly. “Every instinct tells me you’re a good and honorable person, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to do the good and honorable thing with you. You told me that you completed a mission for the princess, and that was the minute you met her. How is this any different? I trust you.”
“Okay. We can work together. I’ll tell you everything that I know.”
Link was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Sleep wouldn’t come for him, but he wasn’t surprised. Whenever he’d had to risk his life for some mission he would always rush right into it. Sitting around and mulling over it the night before wasn’t something he was used to. Now all the pessimistic and negative thoughts flew through his head. He imagined every possible way he and his friends could fail, and that wasn’t doing much for his confidence.
“I’m here for you,” said his father’s now familiar voice. Link turned to look at him. “I know it sounds impossible, but it’s not. You can succeed.”
“I know,” Link said with a sigh. “But I don’t want Solo and Railan to get involved in this. It’s not fair that they have to fight along with me.”
“Who said it was fair for you to fight alone?” Link could see the logic in that. “I’ll be there watching you the whole time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to help directly, but I’ll try. I believe in you, and I know you can do it. But I said I would help if I had to. I would give up ascension and spend eternity in torture to save you. I gave my life for you and your sister once already, doing it again would be easy.”
“I’ve defeated Ganondorf once before, I can do it again.”
“He’s merely a man in that timeline. That was long before he attempted ascension. He didn’t have the knowledge, nor the power to fight you the way he did in your time. It will be a fight between two men, nothing more.”
Link felt more confident on hearing that. “I can defeat him.”
“Remember, you also have another distinct advantage: foresight. You know what’s going to happen in his future; he doesn’t. All he knows then is that he can attain great power by tampering with the time machine.”
“Where would he get that idea?”
“From the great Evil One,” his father replied seriously. “The most evil of all forces. You remember him, don’t you? Daimanius? You helped destroy him. He exists then. His goal then was to destroy life, and he knew he could do that if he tempted Ganondorf. He was tempted by the promise of power, so he followed Daimanius’s instructions.”
“If I go back, and Daimanius is there, he’ll know. I can’t fight him again.”
“You won’t have to,” his father assured him. “He’ll be gone somewhere else causing trouble. He won’t see you as a threat. He could only tell the future if his future self existed to tell him. But since you destroyed him, he won’t know. All you have to do is kill Ganondorf and Koros and the future will be safe.” Link hung his head. “I know that taking another man’s life is a hard thing to do, but sometimes it’s necessary. He is no more a man in the past than he was when you fought him.”
“I’ll do what I have to do,” Link said.
“I’ll be there for you,” his father said with a smile, then vanished.
Link, Solo, and Railan stood at the base of the ramp that led to the huge glass chamber of the time machine. The seven members of the Council were in front of them, finishing their final briefing. “I wish all of you the greatest luck,” said Dalek. “The past, present, and future depend on you.”
“Will these weapons be enough?” Link asked. All three of them had been given swords, several daggers, and other small weapons.
“Yes,” replied Dalek. “They won’t have the supernatural powers you’re used to fighting.”
Link looked sternly at Railan and Solo. “You both stay in a safe place and don’t come out unless I need your help.” They both rolled their eyes and nodded. He looked back at the councilors. “Is there anything else we need to know?”
“Have faith in the goddesses, they will protect you.”
“When you have completed your mission, activate your trackers and we will send you back to your own time,” said Councilor Jolinar.
Dalek reached into his pocket and pulled out three vials of liquid, giving one each to Link and company. “These are the special potions we told you about. Time travel for the inexperienced can be very disorienting. This will prevent you from getting sick. They will also increase your strength and stamina, reaction time, and overall energy. You’ll all feel incredible.”
“Well, bottoms up I guess,” said Link. They all swallowed the potions and gagged at the horribly bitter taste. “Are we ready?” Railan and Solo nodded.
“Godspeed, and good luck,” said Dalek as they walked up the ramp. “Our prayers are with you.”
They stood at the center of the machine platform and the door closed behind them. “This is it,” Link said, trying to sound confident.
“We can do this,” Solo chanted several times.
Railan looked at Link with a solemn face. “For what it’s worth, I’m glad I met you.”
“Likewise,” Link said, putting his hand on Railan’s shoulder. “Everything will be fine. I always succeed.”
The hum from the machine turned into a deafening roar, and the light grew ever brighter. After taking one last breath, the three vanished in a flash of light.
“What the hell are we going to do after we do your stupid plan?” asked Koros angrily. She was trying to get the attention of Ganondorf, who was hunched over the time machine control panel, fiddling with various settings.
“Shut up, woman,” he growled. “I know what I’m doing.”
“So sending one of the self-destruct keys into the future will give us unbelievable powers, huh? I think all the radiation has finally rotted your brain.”
Ganondorf turned around angrily and glared at his partner. “Your incessant rambling will get us nowhere. I know what I’m doing. This is just one part of a grand plan. The machine will be protected from the impact, and sending the key to the future will prevent anyone from activating the self-destruct.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, we’re the only ones left on the whole planet. Who is going to activate the self-destruct?”
“Use your brain instead of your mouth. It’s just a security measure. We won’t need the thing anyways.”
“Then why not destroy it, or launch it into the sun or something?”
Ganondorf pounded his fist on the console, barely avoiding missing the controls. “Because we might need it. I know when and where I’m going to send it. No one will ever find it.”
“And where the hell are we going to go? In case you haven’t noticed, there’s an asteroid a tenth the mass of the planet hurtling towards us. Unless you have a shuttle stored away somewhere, we’re going to fry.”
“We won’t need a shuttle or anything,” Ganondorf said confidently. “We’re going to ascend to a higher plane of existence. When the world is reborn, we can come back and take over.”
“Is that what all this spiritual crap is that you’ve been talking about? And what makes you think anyone will even return to this place afterwards?”
“Quit your whining. If they don’t return, we can go to another planet. That doesn’t matter. Now make yourself useful and make sure the core is properly calibrated.” Koros grumbled and left. Sometimes he wondered why he stuck with that woman. He supposed it was love, or maybe love for her body. He could deal with her antics as long as she remained loyal. With her annoying presence gone, he could go back to work.
Link, Solo, and Railan opened their eyes to take in their new surroundings. They expected to see the cavernous chamber from before, but instead they were in a tiny, dark room full of boxes. “This must be some kind of storeroom or something,” Solo said.
“It would make sense to send us somewhere we can hide,” said Link. After his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Link went to the door and opened it a crack. He saw a long hallway lined with doors, pipes, ladders, and stairways. “There’s no one out there. It’s safe for now. Let’s go.” They left the room and slowly crept down the hall, alert for any signs of trouble. Link had his sword at the ready, enjoying the familiar weight of the blade in his hand. He felt confident, like he could accomplish anything.
There was a continuous hum permeating the general background noise of the place. The potions they’d taken were incredible. Link could hear drops of water falling from pipes hundreds of feet away, and his vision had never been so clear and focused. At the end of the hall was a T-shaped intersection. To the left was another seemingly endless hall of pipes, and to the right was a spiral staircase. Link decided to take the stairs. He gestured for Solo and Railan to remain quiet.
At the top of the staircase was a hatch on the ceiling. He pushed it up and winced when it squeaked. It sounded almost deafening to him, but he had to remember that his hearing was more sensitive now. He peeked through the crack and looked out. His heart rate increased when he saw the familiar cavernous room of the time machine. About a hundred yards away was the center platform of the machine, with a man busily rearranging control chips and punching buttons. No one else was in sight.
Link opened the hatch fully and waved his hand for Railan and Solo to follow. When they were out, Link quietly closed the hatch. Fate was on their side because they were inside a cluster of desks and crates. Link could barely believe how many boxes were lying everywhere. It seemed as if everyone was planning on moving, but suddenly left without a trace. Something was strange about the place; some kind of catastrophe was coming. Link could feel it in his bones. Their little alcove was fairly well-hidden, and if they remained quiet, no one would notice them.
Link pointed to the machine control panel, where Ganondorf was working. The man slightly resembled the Ganondorf he remembered, but not quite as hideously ugly. “That’s him,” Link whispered.
“Where’s the woman?” asked Railan.
Link searched the room carefully, looking for any sign of another’s presence. Off in the distance he could see someone walking toward Ganondorf. He squinted and his blood boiled when he recognized it as Koros. “There she is,” Link whispered. Koros stopped next to Ganondorf and talked to him. Link look backed at Solo and Railan. “I’ll go sneak up on them. Both of you stay here. If it looks like I need help, then come. Otherwise don’t move.”
“Good luck,” said Solo, kissing him on the cheek before he left.
Link left the safety of his hiding place and stealthily walked towards Ganondorf and Koros. The general clutter of the chamber was a blessing; it gave him plenty of camouflage as he approached. He could feel his desire for revenge grow as he went ever closer. He wanted to make Ganondorf pay for the crimes he’d committed, and the ones he was going to commit. He wanted to punish Koros for trying to kill him, and for mass murdering the people of Hyrule in the alternate future. He smiled when he saw Ganondorf hold up two of the self-destruct keys.
Link ducked under a desk that was fairly close to the main control panel. He concentrated on listening. “I sent the key to a safe place,” said Ganondorf. “No one will ever be able to find it, except us.”
“So what’s next?” asked Koros.
“Now we use the machine to go someplace else. We can pool our knowledge and wait till the time is right for use to ascend. Then we can rule the universe together.”
Link cringed when the two started kissing. But they were distracted, and he might not get another chance like this. He sprinted toward them as silently as possible until he was within arm’s reach. Ganondorf and Koros were so caught up in the moment that they never even noticed Link’s presence.
Link stuck the sword in Ganondorf’s back, just enough to barely pierce the skin. He stiffened and turned around to glare at Link angrily. “Who the hell are you?”
Link backed off a few paces and stood in a battle ready stance. As much as he hated Ganondorf, he wasn’t going to stab a man in the back. “You’re not going anywhere,” Link said defiantly.
Ganondorf threw his head back and cackled. Link’s skin tingled on hearing the familiar laugh. “That’s nice little boy, but I’m going to have to kill you.” He pulled out a pistol and aimed it directly between Link’s eyes. Ganondorf pulled the trigger, only to hear a click. He growled and pulled the trigger repeatedly. Click. Click. Click.
“You idiot!” Koros shouted. “The security system deactivates all energy and projectile weapons.”
Link took his advantage and lunged towards Ganondorf, but he dodged to the side and Link landed hard on the ground. “How do I deactivate the security system?” Ganondorf demanded.
“You can’t,” Koros replied. She dug around the console and found a large pry bar laying near an open panel. She picked it up and tossed it to Ganondorf. He caught it just in time to block a downward swipe from Link’s sword. Link pushed and Ganondorf resisted. Koros sneaked up behind Link, but he heard her coming and jumped to the side before she could strike him. Koros ended up plowing into Ganondorf and knocking him down.
Link pulled one of the daggers from his belt and threw it at Ganondorf, just barely missing him. He stood at the ready, looking for any opportunity to attack Ganondorf. “Get up and kill the brat!” Koros growled. She was angry enough to charge Link suddenly. Link saw her coming and stepped out of the way, but he didn’t see the knife she’d picked up from Link’s attack. Link used his sword to block, but she still managed to cut a gash in his side. Link winced and backed off.
While Link’s back was turned, Ganondorf leapt onto him and tackled him to the ground. The sword flew out of Link’s hand and slid across the floor. Ganondorf grabbed Link’s hair and slammed his face against the ground. Link felt a surge of adrenaline and pushed with all his might, springing off the ground and sending Ganondorf back several feet. He laughed and grinned evilly as his stood up. “You have no idea who you’re dealing with you little pest.”
Ganondorf resisted his urge to smile when he saw Koros approach Link from behind, sword in hand. She ran toward him, ready to run him through. Link pulled his second dagger and twirled around to face Koros. He used his knife to deflect the sword. This took Koros by surprise; she’d expected Link to be distracted by Ganondorf. Link kicked Koros’s feet out from under her and she crashed to the ground. He stepped on the back of her head and bent over to retrieve his sword.
Ganondorf used Link’s momentary distraction to swing the crowbar at his back. Link cried out in pain and crumpled to the floor. He rolled over and used his sword to block a blow to his face. Ganondorf kept swinging at Link and Link kept blocking. Then suddenly a loud metallic crack came from Link’s sword as the much heavier crowbar shattered the blade. “Shit,” Link muttered. Ganondorf grinned and brought the crowbar down toward Link’s face. Link moved his head to the side and could feel the wind from the crowbar as it swung past and slammed into the floor.
After Link moved his head to the side, Ganondorf used his left fist to punch Link in the jaw. Koros joined in the fight and started kicking Link in the side. Link cried out in pain and wasn’t able to move out of the way. Ganondorf was about to swing his final blow to Link’s face when a sword came out of nowhere and nearly chopped off his arm. Solo took on Ganondorf and fought him fiercely. Link tried to stand up but collapsed again. Koros tried to stab him but was tackled to the ground by a howling Railan. He banged her head against the floor several times until she stopped struggling. He stood up and kicked her a couple times to make sure she stayed down.
Their fist foe defeated, Link and Railan focused on Ganondorf. Solo was battling with ferocity Link had never seen from his sister. Link picked up his sword and charged Ganondorf. As Solo tripped and fell, Link arrived just in time to block Ganondorf’s crowbar. The man’s right arm was hanging by a thread and he looked ready to collapse. Railan came up from behind and bashed Ganondorf on the back of the head with the hilt of his sword. His eyes rolled back into his head and he fell to the floor.
Railan stood over Ganondorf and nudged him in the side. “Did I kill him?” Railan asked Link.
Link leaned over and checked out his fallen enemy. His pulse was erratic and his breaths were shallow. “No, but he’ll be dead soon.” Link went over to Koros’s still form and examined her. “She’d dead.”
Railan hung his head in shame, a few tears rolling down his cheeks. “I didn’t want to kill anyone. I just wanted to help you.”
Solo put her hand on his shoulder. “It was justified,” she said. “I’ve done it, and Link’s done it. Sometimes you have no choice. It’s never easy.”
Ganondorf twitched and gurgled a little, but didn’t move. “I don’t think we have to worry about him,” Link said. He dug around in Ganondorf’s pocket and retrieved the other two self-destruct keys. “Now we finish our mission.” Link walked to the edge of the time machine platform and looked for a red, striped circle on the floor. After walking halfway around the platform, he found the symbol. Link pulled a handle next to the sign and a hatch popped open, revealing a ladder. “Let’s go.”
Link climbed down first, followed by Solo, then Railan. The room was dimly lit, and very quiet. At the center of the room was a black, cylindrical object laying on its side. It looked to be about thirty feet long and five feet in diameter. The cylinder was almost completely unadorned, save for a few signs in a foreign language. In front of the cylinder were three waist-high pedestals with keyholes, spaced twelve feet apart. “I take it this is the bomb,” Railan said.
“Yes,” Link replied. “We insert the keys into those pedestals and turn them at the exact same time. That activates the bomb. Then we use our tracker to go home.” Link handed Railan and Solo each a key. “I’ll take the center one, and you take the other two.” Link stood at the center pedestal, Solo to the right, and Railan to the left. “Put the key in the slot.” They inserted the keys. “When I say ‘go’, turn the keys to the right. We all have to do it at the same time. Are you ready?” Solo and Railan nodded. “Okay. Three...two...one…go!” They turned the keys simultaneously.
The moment the keys turned, there was a loud click. Some lights flashed on the bomb and the constant humming of the background noise went silent. A loud klaxon sounded and a voice came from everywhere, “Temporal core deactivated.” All three of them jumped when an ear-splitting bell rang for five seconds. “Attention all personnel: there are now five minutes to self-destruct.”
“I guess that’s it,” Link said. He pulled out the tracking device the people from the future gave him and looked at the blinking blue light. “It’s time to go home.” Before he could touch the button, the tracker vanished into thin air. Link was mystified. “What?” He looked at the others frantically. “Try the spares.” Solo and Railan took out their trackers, and they too vanished into thin air.
“What do we do?” Solo asked frantically.
“I don’t know! They said to use the trackers after we turned on the bomb. How can we use them if they disappeared?”
“Can we use the time machine here?” Railan asked.
“No,” Link replied. “The time machine is deactivated when we turn the keys.”
“Then let’s turn off the keys,” Solo suggested. She tried to turn her key, but it wouldn’t budge.
“There are now four minutes to self-destruct.”
“It’s stuck!” she cried.
“Okay, we’ll turn them together, just like before, only turn it the other way. Three, two, one, go!” They all tried to turn the keys, but none of them moved. “We’re screwed.”
Railan sighed and slumped to the floor, leaning against the base of the bomb. “Maybe we weren’t supposed to live through this,” he said. Link and Solo both sat on the floor next to Railan.
“There are now three minutes to self-destruct.”
“Who knows, maybe they’ll save us at the last second,” said Solo.
Link sighed. “I wish there was something I could do. But even if we die, it’s still for the greater good. Too bad no one will remember our sacrifice.” Link pulled Solo to him and hugged her. He was surprised that none of them were overly emotional in the face of certain death.
“Shouldn’t we be sad or something?” Railan said sarcastically.
“Maybe it’s the potion they gave us,” Link said.
“There are now two minutes to self-destruct.”
Solo put her head on Link’s shoulder. “You’ve been a good and kind brother, I just want you to know that. I love you so much.”
“I love you too. You’re everything I wished for in a sister. I only wish we had more time together. I was always proud of you. Thanks for saving me. Thanks for everything.”
“There is now one minute to self-destruct.”
Link looked over at Railan with a sad expression. “I’m sorry, Railan. I never meant to get you involved in this. If I’d known I’d end up killing you, I would’ve left you alone.”
Railan smiled at him. “Don’t say that. These have been the most exciting few days of my life. We all have to go sometime, so I guess this is my time.”
“There are now thirty seconds to self destruct.”
“It’s been an honor to meet you,” said Railan. “I enjoyed the short friendship we had.”
“There are now fifteen seconds to self-destruct.”
“The honor was mine,” said Link. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six... “I love you guys.” ...five, four, three, two, one...
The world vanished in an instant.
Link, Solo, and Railan awoke in a wide open meadow filled with grasses and flowers. The meadow stretched as far as they could see, to the end of the horizon and beyond. Butterflies and hummingbirds flitted from blossom to blossom, sucking the nectar from the flowers. The sun was directly overhead in the cloudless blue sky, but it didn’t seem as bright as it should be. The air was still and scentless. The only noise they could hear was their own thoughts.
“What’s going on?” Railan asked, looking at his bizarre surroundings. “Where are we?”
“This definitely isn’t the real world,” said Link with an air of knowledge. There was something familiar about this place that made him feel safe and secure. Everything was perfect. He felt completely at ease, with an inner peace he’d never dreamed of. He could remember activating the self-destruct, and the sound of the countdown. But once the voice had counted down to one, he woke up here.
“This is pretty boring for the afterlife,” Solo said.
“I feel pretty good though,” Railan commented. “If this is death, I wouldn’t mind spending it with you two.”
Then as if by magic, three women appeared before them. They were stunningly beautiful. They were tall, but not lanky; with hair the texture of silk and color of gold; and beaming smiles that would melt the heart of even a hardened criminal. Their faces were similar, but slightly different, like they were sisters. They each wore flowing gowns that seemed more like body parts than clothing. The one on the left had a red dress, in the middle a blue dress, and on the right a green dress.
“Welcome, our children,” said the woman in blue. Each woman gently hugged and kissed Link, Solo, and Railan. They felt their hearts melt and minds calm with the touch of the beautiful women. They had never felt so safe and secure. The feeling of love was so strong that they could almost touch it.
“Are we dead?” asked Railan.
“Nothing dies,” said the woman in red. “Life only changes forms.”
“I believe you know who we are,” said the woman in green.
Link and Solo nodded, but it took Railan a moment of thought to convince himself of what he was seeing. With wide eyes, he fell to his knees and bowed before the women. “The almighty goddesses!” Railan exclaimed. “Your holy worshipfulness, I’m not worthy to even look at you.” Railan kept his face down and prostrated himself. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see the smiling face of the woman in blue. “You are Nayru,” he said.
“I am Din,” said the woman in red.
“I am Farore,” said the woman in green.
Railan put his head down again. “I’m a sinner, I’m not good enough to look at you.”
Nayru took his hand and pulled him to his feet. “I love you, my child. You will always be worthy. We love you more than a mother loves her newborn baby. Our love for you has no end. No man is greater than another, and we are no greater than you. You will speak to us as equals.”
“Don’t be afraid my son,” said Din in a soothing voice.
“I want to see my mama and sister again,” said Railan with tears in his eyes.
“And see them you shall,” said Farore.
“Why are we here?” asked Link.
Farore replied, “Each of you made the most noble of sacrifices. You gave up your lives not only for those you loved, but for people you would never know. Link, your battle against the great Evil One, it was started at the time you left. Daimanius caused a huge rock from space to crash into the world.”
“I’ve seen that before,” Link said.
“Yes, much like on that other world, an evil force was behind the disaster. But in this case, the rock crashed into the planet. Fortunately, our children were at a state where they could leave the world to protect themselves. Most of the people exist on other worlds, or have ascended to another plane of existence.”
Din continued, “After the world recovered, we seeded it with life again. All the peoples and creatures of the world are descendants of the life we seeded. We also used the opportunity to create the Triforce, and imprison the Evil One. And you, Link, were destined to vanquish him forever.”
“Your destiny has now come full-circle,” said Nayru.
“So why are we here?” asked Link. “I thought you weren’t supposed to interfere with the world.”
“Yes, that’s true,” said Nayru. “We don’t interfere if it violates someone’s free will. But the three of you chose of your own free will to make this sacrifice. Ganondorf and his minions interfered with your free will, and you took it upon yourselves to correct that mistake, losing your lives in the process. That cannot be allowed. Your free will to choose your own paths must be restored. You returned the world to its natural order, and it is only right for us to return you to your natural state.”
“The lives you’ve saved are innumerable,” said Din. “The history you restored is the true path, not a perverted version thought up by an evil madman. Ganondorf's spirit will remain in the Sacred Realm until such time that he is reincarnated in the endless cycle. Koros will be returned to the limbo she escaped from."
"What about the distant future we saw?" asked Link. "Will everything be okay there?"
"Yes," replied Din. "The future will continue the path it was meant to follow. As the Council expected, the time machine in the future will never be invented. But now it’s time for you to return to your history.”
“We will send you back to the exact moment you left,” said Farore.
“Will we remember any of this?” asked Railan.
“Do you wish to remember?”
Link, Solo, and Railan looked at each other. They nodded silently. “I can live with it,” said Link. Railan and Solo agreed.
“Very well,” said Farore. “Because the future will not have the time machine, you are free to discuss your adventure with others. Do not worry about contaminating the future; it will be fine. And we want you to remember that we love you. Each of you has many trials ahead of you, but many happy times as well. Have faith, and obey your conscience.”
The three women smiled and the world vanished once again.
Link, Railan, and Solo stood outside of Link’s house, feeling a little disoriented. They remembered looking at the strange device Link was holding, but it mysteriously disappeared. “That was strange,” Solo said.
“Um...did all of that just happen?” asked Railan to no one in particular. They were still in Link’s house, but everyone felt like they’d been gone for days. The memories of waking up in a strange new world, and fighting an evil foe were fresh in their minds. “Was that real? Did we really see the goddesses?”
“Yes, we did,” said Link. “I’ve seen them before. That’s how they talk to people. I think everything we remember actually happened.”
Railan laughed. “Well, who’s gonna believe our story? They’ll think we’re crazy.”
“You haven’t known Link long enough,” said Solo dryly. “He’s been through more bizarre things than you could ever imagine. What happened just now was nothing.”
Railan’s eyes widened. “So we just got done traveling through time, waking up in the future, running around on a quest that your dead father told you about, then traveled a million years into the past to battle a man that you’ve fought before in the future; and that’s not even the most bizarre thing that’s happened to you?”
“No, not really,” Link replied nonchalantly.
Railan shook his head in disbelief. “I must have the most boring life in the world compared to you.”
“Believe me, I’d love to have a boring life,” said Link.
They were interrupted by Saria, who came running up to them. “Hey, are you guys coming for dinner?” She gave them bewildered looks. “Is something wrong? You guys look a little tired.”
Link chuckled and patted Saria on the shoulder. “You’re never gonna believe this story...”
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