There were no streamers, no ribbons, no rose petals. In fact there was no crowd of citizens. The entire ordeal was rather quiet, bordering on secretive. Aside from the sailors and their respectable passengers, there was virtually nobody on the docks that night. Most of the hustle and bustle associated with a departing voyage was lost in the shadow of the massive ship, broken only by occasional patches of moonlight that fell in between the masts.
In one such patch of light, a man and a woman stood, she on the bottom of the gangplank, he on the dock. She was tall and regal, her chin length red hair restrained by two braids that met at the back of her head. Her garb was simple, a purple kimono of delicate silk with a red sash around her narrow waist. This Hylian woman needed no ornamentation to command attention. The only bauble she suffered to wear was a delicate gold chain around her neck, adorned with a charm of lapis shaped like a rose, her wedding necklace.
The man seemed a stark contrast to her. Somewhat on the short side for a Human, he lacked her natural elegance and made up for it with his proper attire. He sported a stiffly starched suit, blazing white, with gold decorations about the collar and shoulders. In opposition, his feathery blond hair was in complete disarray, half covering his face. Still, two emeralds, his bright eyes, caught the moonlight, glowing like a cat’s eyes.
They held hands tightly, so tight that her knuckles somehow resembled the color of his white gloves. Together, they spoke in whispers, as lovers so often do. “I have a sinking sensation about this journey.”
“Pun intended?” he asked, smiling wryly.
She paused for a moment, trying to comprehend what he had just said. As it dawned on her, she found herself smiling. “Completely,” she replied.
“There’s nothing to fear,” he told her gently. “The seas are calm this time of year and Beigor isn’t far.”
“I’ve heard that before,” she said dourly.
“That was a different time.”
“Frankly, I think it’s time we faced the fact that we Hylians are not the sailors you Humans are.”
“Humans face disaster at sea, the same as everyone else,” he answered sternly, despite the look of adoration in his eyes.
“I don’t want to go,” she sighed.
“You have to.”
“You’d best learn diplomacy now, dear one. Who will be there to teach it to you when you inherit?”
“You?” she supposed jokingly.
“I would hardly call myself the most triumphant example. Your father is a good king, you must learn from the best.”
“Must you always be so logical?”
“It’s in my nature, Amanda.”
Amanda laughed lightly. “I know,” she said. “That’s what infuriates me so much. I find it perfectly charming.”
“Bordering on adorable.”
“Now you’re exaggerating a bit too much.”
A pause hung in the air. “I don’t suppose I could convince you to come with me,” she muttered.
“There is nothing I’d love more, but you know I can’t. Who would watch the children?”
“There’s a castle full of guards.”
“They have their own duties to attend to.”
“Amanda, she’s an old woman. It would be unfair to ask her to take sole responsibility for the twins.”
“She took sole responsibility for me and Zelda.”
“That was eighteen years ago.”
“We should have brought them,” Amanda said bitterly.
“It’s late. Let them sleep.”
Her face crumpled a bit. “I’m just so afraid that I won’t see them again, Artem,” she whispered.
Artem took a step forward, placing one foot on the plank while keeping the other on the dock. He kissed her hands, pressing one of them against his cheek. “You’re not going to drown,” he promised her.
“It would be suitable symmetry,” she said.
“Your gods do not always work by symmetry.”
“No, they work in threes. Zelda. Link. Who’s the third?”
“Nothing I can say is going to make you think rationally about this?”
“I’ve been afraid of the sea for eighteen years,” Amanda said coldly. Her gaze softened almost immediately. Guiltily, she added, “It’s no failure on your part.”
“You just miss them, I understand.”
“Link hasn’t even been gone a year. The pain is still fresh.”
“It will ease,” Artem promised, “as will your fear of the sea. Just give it time, pet.”
“Poor word choice on my part.”
“No,” Amanda replied, shaking her head. “No, you always know what to say, Artem.”
“Hylians have magic tricks, Humans have words. We all must play with the toys the gods give us.”
“I suppose a storm doesn’t mean a shipwreck.”
“And a shipwreck decidedly doesn’t spell out certain doom.”
Amanda smiled. “And there isn’t even a cloud in the sky.”
“Now you’re getting it.”
There was a noisy blast from the ship, so abrupt that it made the two of them jump. The dock itself seemed to quiver at the sound and in order to maintain his balance Artem was forced to plant both feet firmly on the ground. “Oh,” Amanda said anxiously, squeezing his hands tighter, “not yet. I’m not ready to leave yet.”
“The sooner you leave, the sooner you come back.”
“Just a minute more,” she requested, seemingly of the stars, for there was no sailor about to hear.
“When you return,” Artem said, “I’ll arrange for one of my sisters to come over from Catalan. She’ll manage our affairs for awhile and we can go off somewhere together.”
“Where you first told me about the twins.”
“Where you asked me to marry you.”
“We’ll go there,” Artem swore. “Just the two of us.”
A second blast bellowed from the ship’s horn. Amanda looked up anxiously at the deck where the sailors were beginning to hoist anchor. “Make sure it’s not Pearl, she nearly dropped Livia last time.”
“And don’t forget that Jonas can’t sleep without that wooden bird Tress brought him from Sutherland.”
“They wake up promptly at for their morning feeding.”
“I’ll be there.”
“And promise that you’ll keep Livia warm. That nursery is so damp that she trembles.”
“Everything will be fine,” Artem assured her. “I can manage the care of my own children.”
“I know,” Amanda sighed. “I know.”
“Princess Amanda!” Up on deck, one of the knights that were accompanying the family on the trip leaned over the rail. “The sailors need to lift the gangplank!”
“All right, Arion!” she called back to him.
Artem kissed each of Amanda’s hands once more. “Be well, my love.”
She surged forward, seizing his lips with her own for a passionate kiss. Behind her, she could hear the sailors approaching and so reluctantly broke away, stepping backward up the plank until she was securely in the hold of the ship. Artem stepped away from the bottom of the plank. “I love you,” she called to him, not caring whether or not the sailors heard as they went about their work.
“All will be well,” Artem promised. “Your gods have a way of making things work out for the best.”
“We’ll see,” she murmured ominously. Slowly, the ship began to move, pulling away from the dock. Artem walked alongside it on the dock, managing to keep pace with Amanda’s fearful stare. Soon, the edge came near. He drew to a halt, blowing a farewell kiss to his wife as she sailed beyond his reach.
Amanda clung to the doorway of the hold, leaning out as far as she could to catch the kiss. The blackness of the night slowly engulfed Artem and Amanda had never felt so alone in all of her life. She looked down at the water beneath. To her, it seemed dark as ink, savagely lapping up against the sides of the boat. Her heart raced in her chest, pounding so furiously that she was certain the sailors nearby could hear it.
Hyrule was disappearing, slipping away into the horizon. The ship had gained speed, making the waves appear more violent than they really were as they clashed with the planks of the hold.
“In a realm beyond sight, the sky shines gold, not blue. There the Triforce's might makes mortal dreams come true.” Amanda looked over. A young woman in the cargo bay was singing as she went about her work, securing the many crates which lined the walls.
“Why do you sing, Commander?” Amanda asked curiously, turning her eyes and thoughts away from the water for a moment.
“For the favor of the goddesses,” the young woman replied without stopping her labors.
“That they may protect us?”
“That they may bring the ship safely to where it was meant to go.”
Carry sat in the lotus position. It was a bit uncomfortable, sitting on a rock like that, but he barely noticed, his mind occupied with an infinitely more entertaining diversion. Up on the highest of the sea cliffs, overlooking the murky waters below, he watched as Link and Zelda practiced their swordplay with those delightful wooden swords of theirs which made the most amazing noise with every blow.
They moved effortlessly together, like they were dancing instead of sparring. Carry found himself absolutely mesmerized by them. Every movement was circular and graceful, neither of them faltering. They read each other’s mind, metaphorically speaking, advancing and retreating in perfect opposition. Well, almost perfect.
“Shoulder,” Link reminded Zelda as they continued.
“Right,” she muttered, dropping her shoulder back and releasing the tension in her wrist. With that one subtle adjustment, her blows became more fluid than before.
“Good,” Link said approvingly as he took a thrust at her shoulder.
Zelda parried the blow, knocking his sword away, far enough so that she could take a strike at his unprotected middle. Link rebounded fast enough to catch her blade. He spun around, throwing her back a step. While she was off balance, Link reached forward and snaked his entire arm around her blade, pulling it clean out of her hand. “Show off,” she grumbled good naturedly.
Grinning, Carry applauded the creative move. “Now,” Link said, putting on a sagely air, “you would think that such a move would result in cutting your own arm off with a real blade. Not so, however. Most blades have one sharper end for slicing and dicing and one blunter end for bashing. If you catch it so that the blunt end is on the bottom, the move will not cut you, unless you’re really sloppy.”
“Uh huh…” Zelda replied. She walked forward and stomped on his foot. Link yelped, dropping both swords and hopping up and down. “Now, you would think that such a move would result in hurting your foot. Not so, however...”
“Yeah, yeah,” Link cut her off with an impish smile.
“Does the Hero concede?”
There was a rustling sound. All three of them turned and looked at the roughage. The bush closest to the sea cliff was trembling something terrible. “Why does this seem familiar?” Zelda asked dryly.
Carry rose from his rock. Swiftly, he walked over to the bush, shoving his hand down into it. There was a high pitched yelp and Carry removed what appeared to be a green snake. As he continued however, the snake soon turned into a green tail attached to the body of a green little demon with yellow hair.
“Phaedra,” Link grumbled
“Put me down! Put me down!” she squealed, squirming in Carry’s grasp.
“Carry,” Zelda said, “put her down.”
Immediately, Carry dropped Phaedra back into the bush. She made a loud, indignant noise before emerging once again, leaves in her hair. “Don’t touch the tail,” she said angrily, brushing herself off. She looked very much the same, though her hair seemed a bit longer and she wasn’t quite as skinny as before.
Link folded his arms. “You’d better have a good reason for coming back here.”
“You have a lot of nerve, you weasel,” Zelda added angrily. “The last time we met with you, we ended up in a trap.”
“I’m sorry, I am, for what happened,” Phaedra told them pitifully.
“What are you doing here?” Carry asked her.
“I came to find you, I did,” she replied, turning to look at him.
“Him?” Link questioned.
“Yes, friends,” she replied.
Carry folded his arms, imitating Link. “What do you want?”
“Catsy sent me, she did. I work for her now.”
“She said it was important for you to go to the Catfish’s Maw. She said there wasn’t much time, she did.”
“Time?” Link repeated incredulously.
“What does that mean?” Zelda asked.
“I don’t know,” Phaedra answered earnestly. “She just said it.”
Zelda looked at Carry. “Well, I guess you better go.”
“Yeah,” Carry agreed with a slight nod of his enormous head.
Link pointed a threatening finger at Phaedra, “If you betray us again…”
“I won’t! I won’t!” she chirped. She turned, on all fours, about to race off, but suddenly, she looked back at the Hylians. “I almost forgot, I did!”
“Gift? What gift?”
Phaedra made a grand gesture with her hand. The air turned green around the movement. She seemed to be drawing a big green shape in the air. When she was done, she reached out and grabbed it. Instantly, in front of their eyes, the green shape solidified in her hand. “From Catsy,” she said, presenting it to Zelda.
Zelda accepted the gift, turning it over in her hands to examine it. “What is it?” Link asked impatiently.
“It’s a magnifying glass,” she said.
“Catsy sent us a magnifying glass?”
“Not just any magnifying glass. It’s a magical magnifying glass, it is,” Phaedra put in.
“What does it do?
“Catsy said it would help you find the key.”
“To the Windfish’s Egg.”
Zelda blinked, quite taken aback. “The Windfish?”
“You are to go there soon, you are.”
“And this will help us find the key?”
Phaedra nodded eagerly. “That’s what it does.”
“Where do we look?”
Closing her eyes, Phaedra concentrated, wrinkling her nose up. “Catsy said you would find it in the words to your heart.”
Zelda frowned. “The words to my heart?”
Phaedra shrugged, opening her eyes. “I didn’t understand it either.”
“The words to my heart…”
“Oh!” Phaedra cried, looking up to take note of the sun’s progress in the sky. “We must go!” she told Carry. “There’s not much time.”
“All right,” Carry said uncertainly.
Phaedra began scampering off on all fours. “Follow me! Follow me!” She turned around and crawled, back, grabbing Carry’s hand with both of hers and pulling him. “Quick, quick, quick!”
“Be careful, Carry,” Link warned him.
“I will.” With that, Phaedra dragged a reluctant Carry down the beach, leaving Link and Zelda alone on the sea cliff.
“The words to my heart…” Zelda repeated again.
“Any idea what it means?”
“No,” she answered. “But I suppose the best place to start is in the library.”
“Plenty of words there.” Link frowned a bit. “You know what tomorrow is?” he said finally.
Zelda smiled a little. “Our birthday.”
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot and there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
She looked at him, concern in her eyes. “What is it, Link?”
“Well, it’s really just a question I want to ask you.”
Link took her hands, pulling her along the sea cliff a little wise so that they were facing each other. “What I want to –”
“Marin!” a voice screeched from the palm trees.
“Lexx,” Zelda said apologetically to Link before looking up at the trees and dropping his hands. “I’m down here, Lexx.”
Lexx’s round face appeared from in between the
branches. “Marin, we need you down by
“What is it?”
“That bloody walrus is at it again.”
Link blinked. “Walrus?”
“Again,” Zelda sighed with a laugh. She glanced at Link. “I’ll meet up with you later. In the library. Then you can say whatever’s on your mind.” She leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek, then started off, scampering over to Lexx. The two of them disappeared into the palm trees as Link watched.
“Yeah…” he said slowly, fully aware that she was well out of hearing range now. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he kicked the wooden swords back behind the rock where Carry had been sitting. Taking a deep, uneasy breath, he started wandering away, his mind racing.
The wind was picking up. It wasn’t quite violent, yet it cowed the palm trees. The same would have been true of Valerie’s hair, had it not been securely fastened in a snood. She was making her way through the woods. Somehow, they were nowhere near as daunting, now that the Nightmares were dead. These days, the only demons any denizen of Koholint came across were the scattered survivors, too terrified at not having a master to do much damage.
Of course, monsters had never scared Valerie before. Still, she could sense a very real, very palpable change in the air. She sighed, feeling rather old. It always felt this way before the end of a test. Usually, though, Valerie knew how the test would end. In this particular case, she felt blind. This must be what it feels like to be Human, she decided. The way she had been living lately, she might as well have been Human. Things had changed.
felt into the folds of her dress. Safely
nestled out of sight, she could feel the smooth surface of the Ocarina of
Time. For weeks now, she had been
carrying it close, as if she were afraid something
would happen to it, though for the life of her, she couldn’t discern its
meaning on the
She fondly remembered standing there that night, invisible as the Seven Sages completed their work that had begun seven years beforehand. The Princess of Destiny had been reluctant to tap into the mysterious power of the ocarina, but she had known that it was the reward due to the Hero of Time for all of his valiance. Valerie distinctly remembered, most of all, the song, that beautiful, impassioned melody that had reshaped the world, for better or for worse.
Nevertheless, that had been ages ago. Nothing of the sort had been attempted since then. Now, Valerie removed the Ocarina of Time, examining it shrewdly, as if she expected the answer to be inscribed on the shiny surface. She lifted it to her lips, blowing a soft, mournful note. Much to her surprise, it was echoed from above.
A circling shadow passed over Valerie. As she looked up, she could see the silhouette of an owl pass above the trees. She played the note again. Ezri responded with a hoot, the sound exactly the same pitch. Slowly, the figure began to descend through the trees. Valerie raced through the forest, following the shape until she finally saw Ezri perched on the branch of a twisted and gnarled tree.
“Ezri,” she called, approaching him.
answering her, the owl twisted his head, looking up at the
“Yes, so you’ve said.”
“When you play the eight Siren Instruments in front of the Egg he will awaken.”
“I’ve heard that somewhere,” she deadpanned, immediately feeling sorry for imitating Richard’s tone of voice like that.
“This, my friend, is the only way for you to leave the island!”
“I’m not interested so much in leaving the island,” she said.
For once, Ezri seemed startled, reacting in an almost Human manner by looking down at her with wide eyes. “What?”
“I want to save the island,” she told him.
“The answer to that,” Ezri replied, regaining his dignity, “rests in your hands.”
Valerie looked down at the ocarina. “Will it really work?” she wondered aloud.
“Time is the trick,” he said.
“You must wait for the proper moment to make your move. Too soon and it won’t work. Too late and the game will be over.”
“A game? Is that really what this is?” Valerie frowned, something about this statement annoying her more than she cared to admit. “We’re talking about people’s lives,” she reasoned. “This isn’t something to be taken lightly.”
If it were possible for an owl to smile, Ezri was certainly doing just that. “You are correct,” he said.
“Ezri…” Valerie said softly.
“What is the Windfish?”
“I could very easily answer you in riddles and metaphors.”
“I know. But don’t.”
“Very well. You want
to know what the Windfish is?”
Ezri paused a moment. “The Windfish is nothing more than a manifestation of the goddess.”
“How is that possible?” Valerie asked in surprise.
“Are children not the manifestations of their parents?”
“The Windfish is Farore’s child?”
“In a way.”
“That’s a horrible thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are the Nightmares not the children of the Windfish?”
“So you’re saying that the Nightmares are really the grandchildren of Farore? How could creatures so evil stem from her divine blood?”
“Even rotten apples can close to the tree,” Ezri told her with a gleam of delight in his eyes. When his stare was not met with amusement, he sighed. “The word ‘children’ is a very loose term. In this case, it means, not the offspring of the Windfish, but rather the creation of the Windfish.”
“Then how is Catsy different from the others?”
“In the same way that one man can be different from another.”
“What is that?”
“The Windfish and Farore, presented the Nightmares with a great gift.”
“Yes. All of the Nightmares were given freewill by Farore, and then godlike powers from the Windfish. It was all a question of how they would treat these gifts.”
“And Catsy was the only one who realized the difference between good and evil?”
Valerie scowled. “Then the Windfish isn’t truly asleep.”
“On that account, you are wrong.”
“Do gods sleep?”
“The Windfish took to slumber a thousand years ago, after giving his children their powers. While he slept, evil filled the hearts of the Nightmares and they imprisoned him in the Egg.”
“Then the Windfish is indeed generating the dream of Koholint.”
“And the island is a dream.”
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Valerie muttered. “Why would Farore go through all the trouble to create something so elaborate just to test the Hylians?”
“The Nightmares and what waits in the Egg is the test for the Hylians,” Ezri told her. “The rest of it is your test.”
“So it was planned to be my test from the very beginning,” Valerie said.
“But you’ve told me everything now. Doesn’t that mean the test is over?”
“There is one further element to it.”
“You must discover that for yourself.” He paused, eyeing her critically before continuing. “I do think you’ve already set yourself on the right path.”
“I see,” she replied absently.
“You must prepare yourself.”
“For the end?”
“The time has come…the Windfish awaits…Enter the Egg…” Ezri answered, returning to his hypnotic tone of voice.
“Everything is already set in motion,” Valerie said.
“How can you tell?”
“I just know.”
Ezri let out a noisy hoot, spreading his wings as wide as they would go. He hooted a second time. “You’ll know what to do.”
At once, he
shot up off the branch, flying straight up into the air at an alarming
speed. Somehow, deep within her, Valerie
knew that she would not speak to him again for a long while. She watched him soar, swooping in a great
circle about the
She looked away, considering his words. One further element to the test. She had learned compromise, she was fairly certain of that. After all, she had pooled information with Catsy, despite her extreme bias toward the Nightmares. She was also fairly certain she had learned to accept the unforeseen. It was she who had encouraged Link and Zelda to divulge their secrets to Matilda. She knew that she had to save the island, somehow altering reality. What was left to do?
Rather without thinking, she began walking south, following a path by the graveyard. She could see the Tabahl Wasteland, where she had helped the Hylians to bury Erigie and Oderic. The lone memorial, the key to Key Cavern, stood as testimony to their lives and their fates at the hands of the Nightmares. “I know what it is…”
All at once, there was no thinking required. Valerie took the path, speeding up, nearly sprinting as she raced out of the forest, leaving the cemetery and lone graves behind her. The snood holding back her hair came undone, but she didn’t bother to stop and pick it up. Her hair flying wildly like the mane of a colt, she raced down through the prairie.
“Hurry! Hurry!” Phaedra chirped insistently, racing through the hallways of the Catfish’s Maw. Carry struggled to catch up with her. Though his stride was twice the length of hers, she was far lither.
“Slow down!” he implored finally.
“I can’t slow down, I can’t,” she told him in a scolding tone of voice.
Carry would have argued, but frankly he was far too baffled to do so. Though he had always believed he knew the halls of the dungeon by heart, he was quite certain he had no idea where they were. Either Catsy had rearranged the hallways in his absence, or this was a hidden wing that he had never known about.
“Where are we?” he finally said.
“Catfish’s Maw, silly.”
“What’s the hurry?”
“She said I can’t tell you, she did.”
“Can’t tell me what?”
“We’re almost there, we are!” Phaedra chimed merrily. She came skidding to a stop in front of what appeared to be a solid rock wall. “In here!”
“In where?” Carry asked.
Phaedra sighed indignantly. Reaching forward, she latched onto his wrist and dragged him, walking straight through the stone wall as if it had not been there.
On the other side was a room Carry had never seen before. It was small and square shaped, with polished wooden floors, except for one corner which seemed to open directly into the waters of Martha’s Bay. From the ceiling, a mystical, artificial sunlight filtered in, lighting up the room with a golden aura. On the walls, hung an assortment of elaborate, gilded mirrors, all of them angled down at the moment, reflecting the floor which was covered in pink and purple pillows: Reclining on a pile of these pillows, against the far wall, sat Catsy. She was dressed as a Siren, the old empire-waisted dress with gold rings. Her hair was the only part that remained true to Catsy, the two braids coiled up into horns on the top of her head.
She looked up as the duo entered. “You came,” she sighed with an air of relief in her tone.
“I promised you I would bring him, I did,” Phaedra said proudly, shoving Carry forward a little bit.
“Thank you, Phaedra,” Catsy said.
“You’re welcome, most beautiful one!”
“Now, if you wouldn’t mind, please go see to the front entryway.”
“Of course,” Phaedra replied with a funny little bow. She turned around on her toes and scampered back through the wall, vanishing out of sight.
Once the two of them were alone, Carry started to walk toward Catsy. “Catsy, there’s something I want to…” He trailed off, suddenly realizing that something was very much amiss.
As Catsy lay there, Carry realized it wasn’t by choice. Her skin was paper thin, making it easy to see the purple veins running through her body. She wasn’t reclining against the wall. The fact of the matter was that the wall was the only thing propping her up. Though her dark eyes burned with the same inner conviction they had always held, her face seemed much thinner, frailer, and her eyes bigger and more bugged out than ever before.
“What?” she asked with a slight laugh in her voice. “Do I have something in my teeth?”
“Dying,” she concluded for him. “I know.”
“Have been for some time now. Since that little incident in the Face Shrine.”
“When Hawk killed Face.”
“One Nightmare killed another.”
“The prophecy,” Carry sighed.
“‘Ten summers near.’”
“‘The test will begin.’”
Catsy seemed delighted at his recitation. “‘Evil will lose.’”
“‘Good will win.’”
“‘Mortals unite, true love calls…’”
“‘One Nightmare betrays.’”
“‘The others will fall.’”
Carry lowered his eyes. “So it’s true?”
“Yes, Carry,” she told him softly. “And I’ve known that from the beginning,” she added. “And accepted it.”
“You have to, Carry.”
“No!” he said fiercely, in a childlike voice. “I need you, Catsy.”
She smiled a genuine smile at him. “A greater world waits for both of us,” she said.
“I can’t face it without you.”
“You won’t have to.”
“I will always be with you. You just may not see me.”
He walked over to her, kneeling beside the pillows. “What will happen to me, Catsy?” he asked.
She smiled, summoning all of her effort to raise a hand to his cheek. “Many, many great things,” she promised. “You will see things beyond your wildest dreams; magic and mystery. You’ll finally have the chance to explore new worlds. And one day, you will be the father of a whole new nation.”
“You can see all that?”
“As clear as I’m seeing you now.”
He paused for a long while, his mind debating and choosing his next words very carefully. “Catsy, I want to ask you something very important.”
“Don’t,” she said.
“Don’t ask it.”
“How do you know what I –”
“I just know. And on that subject, I will say only this: You are not a creature of darkness. The hour of your birth was one of the greatest Koholint has ever known and you have been the guiding light of my life, more so than anything else.”
Carry mulled over her words. “It’s enough,” he finally decided.
“I am glad.”
“No buts, Carry.”
“I have to say what I have to say,” he responded.
Catsy sighed heavily. “So be it.”
“But,” he continued, “You should have told me. A long time ago.”
“I know that,” Catsy answered. “I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. Never one I regretted so much, though.”
“I shouldn’t have had to learn the truth from Flame.”
“My one lasting regret,” Catsy promised him.
“I don’t want you to have any regrets,” Carry said meekly. “But I had to say what I had to say.”
“And so you said it.” Catsy laughed, touching the corner of his lip with her thumb. “Why such a sad face? For once, everything is as it should be.”
“I love you, Catsy.”
“And I love you.”
“It’s not right,” Carry said.
“What’s not right?”
“That you have to die. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“We both know my past is, colorful, to put it gently. I am not innocent.”
“But you changed!”
“Change doesn’t take away what’s past.”
“But it should make up for what happened.”
She smiled a little. “Perhaps it will. After all, we don’t know what new world waits for me.”
“It isn’t right, Catsy. You know it isn’t fair.”
“Life isn’t fair. That’s the funny thing about change. Sometimes, it just takes too long. And then, other times, some things just don’t…” She trailed off, her gaze suddenly lifting over Carry’s shoulder. “Change.”
Carry frowned. “What?” In confusion, he swiveled around, looking behind him. Standing against the illusionary wall was Matilda. Her bearing was distinctly different. She appeared somewhat timid, even a little frightened as she stood, facing Carry and the Nightmare.
“Hello, Matilda,” Catsy said softly.
Though she seemed too shaken for words, Matilda managed to let a single utterance out. “Hello.”
“Come over here,” Catsy asked. It was not an order, but rather a request. Tentatively, Matilda made her way to the pillows, kneeling down opposite Carry, next to Catsy. “Your lineage’s duty to me is at an end,” Catsy said. “From now on, you and your daughters will have a new charge.” She reached over, fumbling before she managed to take one of Matilda’s hands. Gingerly, she took Carry’s hand as well, joining them together. “Take care of one another.”
Link lit another candle. This was the third one. As he glanced outside of the library door, he knew it was far too soon for the sun to be setting. The afternoon had barely just begun and already the daylight seemed to be disappearing. A part of him dreaded the night. He knew that tonight was the night. Valerie had told them it was time. In the morning, the morning of his eighteenth birthday, he would either find salvation or death awaiting him: Happy birthday, indeed.
He turned back, away from the door, shutting it. Zelda was sitting at a table in the far left corner, nearly a dozen books open in front of her. To him, she seemed lovelier than ever before in the soft candlelight. Despite his natural inclination toward action he couldn’t help but stop and stare. Light radiated from her soft, pale skin, filling the room with her glow. Her eyes, like two sapphires, burned with conviction. Link felt his heart melt as he watched her.
She looked away from her books, picking up the magnifying glass Phaedra had given them. As she examined it, her eyes fell into his gaze. “What?”
“Nothing,” Link answered, shaking his head.
“You were staring.”
“I didn’t mean to,” he lied, making his way over to her table and sitting across from her.
She sighed, turning her attention back to the matter at hand. “I can’t figure it out. In every respect, this is nothing more than a magnifying glass.”
“The words of your heart, she said,” Link muttered.
“What have you tried it on?”
Zelda gestured to the array of books around the table. “Three trashy romance novels, two stories with the word ‘heart’ in the title, and a book of medicine.”
“Just bigger letters.”
Link picked up one of the books, turning it to look at the binding. “‘The Passion Play of Lady Niobe,’” he read. “I think I’ve read this book before.”
Zelda gave him an incredulous look. “Please tell me that’s a joke.”
“I have just lost all respect for you.”
“No you haven’t,” he said with a laugh.
Zelda reached across the table, snatching his hat from off his head. She promptly dropped it on top of her red locks. “I get to be the Hero now,” she declared. “You can go off and read your romance novels.”
With a laugh, Link swiped at her, trying to grab the hat. She was too quick for him, backing away out of his reach. “I think I’m living one,” he teased. Abruptly, Link pounced up onto the table, making a second grab for the hat. Zelda pushed her chair away from him and Link toppled over, falling off.
She put a hand to her mouth, feigning concern but actually covering a laugh. “Din, are you all right?”
“Oh, I’m okay,” he promised, sitting up. “I landed on my head.”
Zelda set the magnifying glass back on the table. She lifted herself out of her chair and knelt beside him, touching the side of his head gently. “No further damage possible,” she teased softly.
He reached over and swiped his hat back, dropping it on his head. “Precisely,” he laughed.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” she asked, touching his cheek.
Link put his hand over hers, dragging it to his lips where he kissed her palm. “Never better,” he mumbled. He took her hand in both of his, lowering it from his face. “Hey, Zelda?”
“Remember how I said I wanted to talk to you earlier today?”
“On the sea cliffs. We got interrupted.”
“Well? What is it?”
“Zelda, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Probably since the day we met.”
“Link, we met when we were both in diapers.”
“It’s a metaphor.”
He sighed. “Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it a long time. And there’s something I want to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“Zelda, will –”
The door to the library slammed open with a crack. Link, on impulse, stood up, so quickly that he knocked his head against the table and fell over. Dazed and dizzy, he stood a second time, clutching the edge of the table. “Link? Is that you? I knew I’d find you here.”
As Link and Zelda looked at the doorway, they almost didn’t recognize who had just come in. It was Richard all right, but something about him seemed drastically different. It must have been his clothing. Gone was the pompous red tunic he was infamous for. He wore a light, white cotton poet’s shirt, the sleeves rolled up a little bit. His fancy hunting gloves had vanished and his long, dark hair was tied back with a teal ribbon.
Link blinked once, trying to clear the stars from his vision. “Richard?” he asked uncertainly.
“What? Did you hit your head or something?”
“As a matter of fact…never mind. What do you want?”
“I have something that belongs to you.” He reached for something outside of the library door and pulled it in: A magnificent blue shield with a large red bird and three triangles on the front.
“My shield!” Link yelped in surprise, scurrying around the table. “I thought I lost it at sea.”
Richard handed it over. “It washed up on the shore.” He paused a moment before adding, “Months ago. I bought it from Matilda.”
Link examined it in awe. “I thought I would never see it again…”
“Well, there you have it.”
He looked up. “Thank you, Richard.”
Zelda scowled. “You’re not infamous for giving out free favors,” she said. “What do you want in return?”
“Nothing?” Link repeated.
“Listen,” Richard snapped. “I can’t claim at all to understand it, but I know something is happening, something big. Koholint is changing and you’re a big part of it. Don’t ask me how, but I just know.”
Link slipped his arm through the handle of the shield, testing it out as though it were new. “I wonder if I’m going to need this,” he muttered.
“For your sake, I hope not,” Richard replied. An ominous wind blew outside, whistling as it squeezed through the planks of the library’s wall. “I have other business to attend to before the storm hits.”
“Sounds like it’s going to be a bad one,” Link muttered.
“Indeed it does.” Suddenly, and most unexpectedly, Richard extended his hand in Link’s direction. “I wish you luck in whatever it is you’re doing,” he said.
Blinking in slight surprise, Link leaned forward with his free hand and grasped Richard’s forearm, giving him a single, vigorous shake. “Thank you, Richard,” he said, this time much more sincerely.
After nodding, Richard glanced over his shoulder at Zelda, who had just opened a new book. “Oh, and Marin…watch out for him.” With that, Richard released Link’s arm and turned on heel, marching out of the library. The door slammed shut behind him.
“Well…” Link mumbled, watching the door. “That was…bracing. Listen, Zelda, before we get interrupted again I want to –”
“Surrounded by your light am I, your hair the net that pulls me close.”
“What?” Link turned around quickly and saw Zelda pouring over the book she had just opened.
“Like the ancient trees, your arms intertwine with mine and we stand beneath the sunset on an event horizon between night and day.”
“Even horizon between night and day,” Link repeated. “That would be now,” he added, glancing at the door and recalling the eerie darkness. “What is that you’re reading?”
“It’s a poem Kurt used to recite to me,” Zelda muttered, picking up the magnifying glass.
“Oh,” Link replied icily, bristling at the mention of Zelda’s former flame.
As Zelda held the magnifying glass over the page, her eyes widened. “Link! Come look quickly!”
Link raced to her side at once, looking over her shoulder at the page. Where she held the magnifying glass, the black text disappeared and a beautiful red script was illuminated beneath. There were three lines of writing. Link quickly read the first one. “The flame of Wisdom smolders in the hearts of men.”
Zelda read the second. “Courage never crosses the line.”
“The greatest test of Power –”
“Is knowing when not to use it.” Zelda looked up at Link. “What does that mean?”
know,” he answered. “But we don’t have
time to sit around and figure it out. We
have to get to
Zelda ripped the page out of the book, folding it and dropping it, along with the magnifying glass, into her quiver, which she had hidden under the table. She threw it over her shoulder. Link snaked his arm around her waist and the two of them exited the library, heading off to the great unknown.
For someone who had always existed in such a timeless state of being, Catsy found it bitterly ironic that now the only sound keeping her company was the ticking of a clock. She sighed wearily, her heavy eyelids drooping. “Not yet,” she muttered to herself, forcing them open once more.
“It’s too late now for fear, my sister,” she heard Iris whisper in her ear.
“I’m not afraid,” Catsy replied.
She couldn’t see them, but she knew they were there. All eight of them. They were assembled in her private den as though it were their place of assembly. Each of them was sitting in their respective position. Catsy felt the heat of Flame’s body, smelled the stench of Tail’s form, and heard all of their voices as the seconds ticked by.
There wasn’t much time left. But then again, there never seemed to be enough Time. That was something all the disciples of Farore learned eventually, one way or another. Summoning up what little strength she had left, Catsy forced her eyes open wide again. A part of her feared the darkness now. It was in the darkness that the eight of them could be seen. They were waiting for her, menacing grins on their wicked and unremorseful faces.
With great effort, Catsy reached to her side, seizing a small, gold cord that hung from the ceiling. She gave it a weak tug and heard a bell ring on the other side of her false wall. Exhaling loudly, she dropped the cord, her weak hand falling against the floor with a thud. She supposed that she had banged her knuckles up pretty badly, but she felt no pain.
Phaedra’s head appeared, peeking in through the door in a comically eerie fashion. “Yes?” she asked politely.
“Come in here, Phaedra,” Catsy beckoned.
Timidly, the rest of Phaedra’s body passed through the wall. She walked over to Catsy, her tail flicking about, as if swatting flies. “What is it?”
“Sit beside me,” Catsy instructed her.
Confused and curious, Phaedra knelt by Catsy’s side. “Now what?”
Catsy couldn’t help but laugh a bit. “That’s all, Phaedra.”
“You just want me to sit here?”
“I don’t want to be alone,” Catsy answered.
Almost abruptly, Catsy’s gaze drifted up. She caught her own reflection in one of the mirrors on the wall. How dreadful she looked! Skin as thin as parchment, just as sallow too. And that dress! That awful dress! “Phaedra, your sister and you will take good care of the dungeon, won’t you?”
“Oh yes, of course,” Phaedra told her earnestly.
“You’ll make sure the leaks are properly sealed?”
“Yes. I promise, I do.”
“Go across the room now,” Catsy instructed her. Phaedra clambered to her feet, skipping across the polished wooden floor. “On the ground near the water there should be a box. Bring that here.”
“I see it, I do!” Phaedra chirped, stooping over and picking up the box. She promptly returned to Catsy’s side.
“Open it,” Catsy said.
Phaedra pried the box open. Instantly, her eyes widened. “It’s so shiny, it is,” she whispered, examining the small, iridescent blue chit.
“Do you know what that is?” Catsy asked.
“That’s a mermaid scale.”
“From a real mermaid?”
“Yes.” Catsy licked her dry, cracked lips. “I want you to have it, Phaedra.”
Phaedra looked up at her in surprise. “Me?”
“The mermaid it came from was named Martha. I want you to take extra special care of that scale. Just as Martha took care of me.”
“I’ll treasure it always, I will!”
A soft hum that had been haunting Catsy all morning began to swell in volume. It had been bothering her for some time, but now she knew exactly what the sound was. It was singing. The tune was mournful, but rich and exciting: A Siren’s Song. Iris and Angelika were singing it, but the harmony was incomplete. It was a three part harmony and there were only two singers.
“Thank you, Phaedra,” Catsy muttered. “Go now.”
“Go. Leave me.”
“Are you certain?”
“I am certain.” Catsy afforded her a small smile. “Take care of yourself and your sister. And never forget.”
“I will never forget them.”
“And me too?”
“You are not like them,” Phaedra said simplistically. She stood up, walking to the false wall.
“Come into my arms,” Iris and Angelika continued singing, “rest your weary head. With my song and my charms you’ll forget what you dread.”
Catsy knew Phaedra was gone. She was alone at last with her fate. There was no doubt about it now, as the singing grew louder. Destiny awaited the wicked. Catsy would be with her sisters soon.
“That creature was right,” a voice said, one unfamiliar and childish. Catsy looked to her side where she saw a little girl sitting on the floor, her green gingham dress hiding her legs. “You’re not like them.”
“Farore?” Catsy asked weakly.
“Your destiny does not lie with them, it never did.”
“I did such horrible things, no better than the rest of them. How can you say my destiny is not to be punished?”
“Who said that there’s such a thing as destiny?”
“What is destiny but the result of the decisions made by an individual?”
“What does that mean?”
The girl reached forward, putting a hand on Catsy’s face. “You are still too young to understand.”
“Fie upon thy mother, far across the sea,” the Sirens continued. “Scorn hand of thy brother…stay adrift with me.”
Catsy stared at the girl. “Can’t you hear them?”
“Just echoes of the past. The Nightmares and their wickedness are gone. Nothing left to be mourned.”
“Will anyone mourn for me?”
“No,” the girl said. “You will not be mourned.” A smile spread across her adorable face. “You will be celebrated.”
“Forever and always, you will be remembered for your goodness. The indiscretions of the past fade with time, but goodness lives forever.”
“Like the breakers breaking, blackness of the deep. Never to be waking, ever lost in sleep.”
Suddenly, Catsy realized that the room was filling with gray smoke. There wasn’t much time. “Will I cease to be?” she implored the girl, urgency filling her eyes.
“Such is the question that all the dying ask,” she replied.
“What’s the answer?”
Tenderly, the girl leaned forward, kissing Catsy’s forehead. She pulled back, sitting on her heels. “Just wait and see.” A flash of green light erupted from her middle, utterly consuming her form until all that remained was a humanoid body of emerald glow. The form stood up, extending her hands out to Catsy.
“Like the sun is fading before the moon, her friend. You’re no longer waiting. Thy journey’s at an end.”
Catsy lifted her hands to take the being’s. As she reached up, her fingertips slowly dissolved, turning into gray smoke that fluttered away into the room. She watched the smoke travel down, converting and consuming first her hands, then her arms, now the rest of her. The beauty of the Siren’s Song had been lost. Without a third part to complete the harmony, all entrancement, all magic was gone. And finally, that ugly dress was gone!
The wind had gone from strong to downright turbulent. Matilda, though a sturdy girl, clung to Carry’s arm, afraid she’d be blown away. “Are you sure tonight is a good night to be doing this?” she shouted above the gale.
“Yes!” Valerie yelled back. Normally an image of composure, Valerie looked rather harried and out of breath, one hand on the rock face of an alcove, the other securely over the flap of her hemp satchel.
“Look!” Carry called, pointing down the rocks. The three of them turned to see Link and Zelda approaching. Link had taken off his cap and now held it in his teeth as the wind blew both his and Zelda’s hair about, exposing their ears for all the world to see. Not that anyone could see. The sky had grown steadily darker, as if impatient to bring on the night. Yet the moon could not be seen. It was still far too early for the moon to rise in this supernatural darkness.
“What took you so long?” Matilda joked as she and Carry walked to the ledge to offer them a hand.
“Traffic,” Link deadpanned in a muffled tone of voice, accepting Carry’s arm. In one swift movement, Carry hoisted Link up onto the ledge.
“Did we miss any fun?” Zelda asked, gripping Matilda’s hands as she walked up the face of the rock wall.
“Couldn’t start the party without you,” Matilda replied.
“Do you have the Instruments?” Valerie shouted.
“Yeah,” Link replied.
“Bring them over here!”
With Link leading the pack, they walked over to Valerie’s alcove. “How are we going to get them to play?” Link wondered. “They’re kind of tiny.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Valerie said loudly. “Give them to me.” Link reached into his pocket and handed the instruments to Valerie one at a time. She accepted them, kneeling in front of the alcove and placing them into small indentures in the rock. A golden aura surrounded her as she did; growing brighter with each additional instrument Link gave her.
Once all of them were placed, Valerie stepped back. Though no words were spoken, simultaneously, all five of them turned to look up the rock face at the Egg on top of the peak. It was quite a peculiar sight, but one the inhabitants of Koholint were all quite used to, this enormous egg with red spots.
“Nothing’s happening…” Matilda sang softly.
Suddenly, there was a blast of light, brighter than any. The heroes shielded their eyes for a moment before they felt the light begin to fade. As they looked on, they watched as the mountain slowly began to turn gold. The light seemed to creep up the rock quickly, leaving a gold trail behind. Once it reached the Egg on top, the light flared up again. There was a loud crash of music, a cacophony that was anything but beautiful. The Egg shuddered in its place and as if it were a torso, suddenly bowed to them, cracking in the middle.
“That’s not something you see every day,” Zelda muttered.
“Unless you’re us,” Matilda added.
Link looked at Valerie. “Do we go?”
She nodded. “We go.”
The five of them began climbing up the golden rock, Carry the first to reach the top. When he arrived, he landed a very solid punch into the cracked Egg. As he pulled his hand out, he brought a large piece of the shell, dripping with a golden viscous substance, with him. As the others caught up with him, they began pulling away bits and pieces of the shell until finally there was an entrance big enough for them to fit in through.
Fearlessly, Valerie was the first inside, followed by Carry and Matilda. Left alone on the outside, Link turned to Zelda, pulling his hat out of his teeth. “Zelda, there’s something I really want to ask you,” he called to her.
“Not now, Link,” she shouted, already halfway inside of the Egg.
Link sighed irritably. With a heavy shrug of his shoulders, he dropped his hat on his head and followed her inside. As he passed through the hole in the Egg, he felt a somewhat familiar tingle race across his skin.
The chamber they were in was dark, but filled with the piercing howl of the wind. As Link stepped inside, he clamped his hands over his ears. The others were all doing likewise, except for Valerie who had moved farther away from the entrance. She reached into her satchel, pulling out a pouch of powder which she ripped open with her teeth. Carefully, she threw a little bit of the dust in the air, filling the room with a flash of light. As she did so, the crack in the Egg suddenly sealed itself, abruptly cutting off the screams of the wind.
“No turning back,” Matilda mumbled as she pulled her hands off of her ears.
The light from Valerie’s powder had faded too quickly, long before the heroes were able to orient themselves to the room they were in. Oddly enough though, it seemed to be made of stone, rather than eggshell. Certainly, there was none of that gold substance that had been on the shell when they dug their way in. “I think we’ve been teleported,” Link said.
“My hookshot!” Matilda cried.
“What about it?” Link asked.
Link quickly groped over his shoulder, trying to feel for the hilt of the Master Sword. “My sword’s gone.”
“And my quiver,” Zelda added.
“Give us some more light, Val,” Matilda ordered.
A bright blast of blue fire appeared on the opposite end of the room. “Well, I’ve never seen her do that before,” Zelda said.
“That’s not me,” Valerie hissed.
The flame began to morph, taking the form of a humanoid. When it died down, standing where it had been was a woman. She was certainly no kind of woman they had ever seen before. The stranger had bright blue skin, emitting an eerie light that filled the room. Her hair was long and violet, matching the ceremonial robes she wore. “Welcome,” she said in a voice that echoed.
“Hello?” Link tried. He looked around the room. Across the far end, behind the strange woman, there was a lush velvet curtain, dark blue. The room was, indeed, made of stone. They must have been teleported.
“What have you done with our weapons?” Matilda demanded.
“You will not need them. Why have you come here?” she asked.
“We come to wake the Windfish,” Zelda supplied.
“To make a wish,” Carry added.
“I see,” the woman said. “Which one of you is the Hero of Time?”
“That would be me,” Link said.
“And the Princess of Destiny?”
“That’s her,” Matilda answered, pointing to Zelda.
The stranger smiled. “Ah, welcome. We’ve been expecting you. And welcome to your companions as well.”
“The Windfish sleeps a chamber beyond this one.”
“Are you here to show us the way?” Link asked.
“I am the guardian of this chamber. In order to leave, you must pass my trial.”
“A trial?” Zelda repeated.
“Yes. Are you prepared?”
They exchanged baffled looks. This was clearly not what they had been expecting, although none would admit that they didn’t know what to expect. “Are we ready?” Link whispered to the group.
Carry nodded. “Yes.”
“Ready as we’ll ever be,” Matilda declared.
“I suppose so,” Zelda agreed.
Link turned to the woman. “We’re ready,” he said.
“Excellent,” the woman said. She turned to the curtain and swept her arm through the air. The curtain parted. On the other side, there was a single lamp in the middle of the floor, unlit. Beyond the lamp was a doorway. “In order to pass through my door, you must answer a question.”
Matilda shrugged. “What’s the question?”
The woman reversed her action, causing the curtains to close. She turned to face the group, clapping her hands once. On the floor, three stone switches appeared in a row before them. “One of these switches lights the lamp on the other side of the curtain,” she said. “You must determine which one it is. Once you tell me to open the curtains, I will open them, but only once. After I have opened the curtains, you must tell me which switch starts the fire. Guess wrong and you may not pass.”
She fell silent, leaving them to stare at one another. “Okay,” Link muttered. “Any ideas?”
“Well,” Matilda thought slowly. “Why don’t we just throw one of the switches? She opens the curtain. If the lamp is lit, we know which switch it is.”
“And if the lamp isn’t lit?” Carry asked.
“Then it must be one of the other two.”
Zelda walked over to the first of the switches, pulling it experimentally. Link frowned. “Well, how do we know which one it is?”
Matilda shrugged. “We guess? It’s a fifty/fifty shot.”
“I’m not sure I like those odds,” Link muttered.
“And we can’t try again,” Carry reminded them.
“Okay,” Matilda scowled. “Well, what if one person stands by the curtain and we throw each switch. Then the person by the curtain can feel the heat from the fire.”
“It’s a magical curtain,” Valerie said simply. “That won’t work.”
“Then I guess the proper switch wouldn’t heat up either?”
“That’s a pretty good guess.”
“Hey,” Link mumbled, “what if it’s a trick question?”
Matilda looked at him. “A trick question?”
“Yeah,” he said. “What if none of the switches start the fire? Or what if all of them do?”
Matilda squeezed the bridge of her nose. “This is complicated.” Across the room, Zelda turned off the first switch and walked to the second.
“Can we throw something over the curtain or through it?” Carry asked.
“Decidedly not,” Valerie replied.
Zelda threw the second switch. “Open the curtain,” she called to the strange woman.
All four of the others instantly turned with cries of objection, but the curtain was thrown wide open. The lamp was unlit, though a plume of smoke rose from the wick inside. “What say you, Princess?” the woman asked.
“The first switch lights the fire,” Zelda replied.
“That is correct,” the woman said with a nod of her head.
Link stared at Zelda. “How…?”
“I threw the first switch for a little while, then turned it off. I threw the second switch and told her to open the curtain. If the flame was lit, the second switch was responsible. If there was smoke, the first switch was responsible. If there was neither, the third switch was the answer.”
Link’s eyes widened. “That’s right! It takes a flame a few minutes to smolder. Clever girl.”
“Smolder,” Zelda muttered pointedly.
Matilda let out a loud and triumphant laugh, pumping her fist in the air. “Brilliant!”
“You may pass into the next chamber,” the woman declared. With that, she became a bright blue flame once more and disappeared.
The poor crickets were confused. It wasn’t night yet, but the sky was dark. Unable to determine what to do, half of them chirped chaotically while the other half seemed to remain silent. The beauty of their melody was somewhat lost in the confusion, giving them more of an ominous tone and usual. And the wind! It whistled through the trees rudely, interrupting the crickets! Marnie, not noted for being the most observant person on the island, noted this as she made her way through the remains of the tanglewood patch to Link’s hovel.
“Link?” She called. “Link, are you in?” There was no response. “Marin?” she tried carefully. Again, no response. Good. She smiled triumphantly, removing a wrapped package from the basket she was carrying. Gently, she placed it on the ground, right in front of the threshold of the hut.
Marnie nearly jumped out of her skin. Jumping to her feet, completely off kilter, she turned around to find old Molly standing behind her, one hand on her bamboo cane, the other on her hip. “Molly!” Marnie cried. “You startled me!”
Molly laughed good naturedly. “I apologize,” she said. “I didn’t mean to.”
A hand fluttering to her chest, Marnie slowed her breathing, smiling despite herself. “You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that,” she wheezed.
“My question goes unanswered.”
“Oh.” Marnie laughed. “That? Just a birthday present for Marin.”
“Ah yes.” Molly glanced up at the sky. “And it seems that her birthday may begin sooner than anticipated.”
“Yes, what’s going on? The sun wasn’t supposed to set for another hour or so.”
“I wish I knew,” Molly admitted, turning back to Marnie. “Sadly, however, I am at a loss.”
“Have you ever seen anything like this before?”
“Well, that’s certainly saying something.”
“Early night,” Molly scoffed. “The way the inhabitants of this island fear the night, it’s a wonder we haven’t been cursed with this before.” She frowned, eyeing Marnie. “I’d hardly expect you to be bold enough to venture out like this.”
“In the night?” Marnie shrugged a bit. “Things have changed, I think. People aren’t as afraid of the darkness as they used to be.”
“Yes, I have noticed that. Koholint’s night life has been much calmer than normal. Although perhaps I should not say that when there’s such a wind.”
“Good things happen in the night too, you know. Not just fearful things.”
“Unmentionable things,” Marnie said with a sly laugh.
“Of course, of course. I meant something mentionable, my dear.”
“What do you need me to tell you? You know perfectly well of the great blessings that have come in the night.”
Molly smiled wryly. “You are referring to Dawn, are you not?”
“Oh yes, I almost forgot about that.”
“She was brought to us in the night.”
“And what a night that was,” Molly added, shaking her head as if to cast off the memory.
“I’m surprised you remember that much of it.”
“Well, I don’t,” Marnie admitted. “After all, I had just given birth to four children.”
“Dawn was the greatest of gifts.”
“Don’t pity her too much. She was a rude, crass, vile woman.”
“Don’t speak so ill of the dead.”
Marnie sighed. “Do you remember the last thing she said before leaving Dawn with us?”
“I do,” Molly replied.
“‘Tell all that you had five children instead of four.’”
“In a way, that was her dying wish,” Molly muttered. “Not that she knew she was going to die.”
“Have you honored her wish?”
“I have. Dawn will forever be my secret,” Marnie said with a nod. She glanced over her shoulder. “I should return home.”
“Very well. Good night,” Molly said.
Marnie smiled. “Good night indeed. There’s no more terror.”
“Things do change.”
The second chamber the heroes passed into was quite unlike the first. As opposed to stone, this time there was sand beneath them. It wasn’t too deep, but still, each of them left unique footprints as they ventured further into the room. The wall opposite to them had an open door and the only thing between them and that door, aside from the annoying sand, was a huge unlit pyre in the center of the room.
“Great,” Matilda deadpanned, “more fire.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Link answered. “Either way, keep walking.”
As the five of them neared the pyre, there was a mighty smash. Looking behind, they realized the door had slammed behind them. A second crash sounded. “The door,” Carry mumbled as they looked to see that the door ahead of them was also shut.
“I hate it when that happens,” Link sighed.
Matilda’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline. “This has happened to you before?” she asked.
“Far too often. Usually, it means there’s something you have to defeat in the room, something the life energy of which is keeping the doors shut.”
Zelda scanned the room. “I don’t see anything,” she said. “Unless the pyre is alive.”
“Doubtful,” Valerie responded.
Before the word had even finished on her lips, a great green flame erupted over the pyre. It drifted down, light as a feather, landing before the group where it took form, transforming into a woman. She was practically identical to the one they had just encountered with the fire and switches, only her skin was radiant green, her hair and chiton canary yellow.
“Hello?” Carry ventured.
“Why have you come here?” she asked.
“We come to wake the Windfish,” Matilda said with an annoyed sigh. “We just told the woman in the other room.”
“I see,” the woman nodded. “Which one of you is the Hero of Time?”
“Me,” Link snapped, his patience wearing thin.
“And the Princess of Destiny?”
“That’s me,” Zelda answered.
The woman smiled, looking so identical to the last woman’s smile that it was unnerving. “Ah, welcome. We’ve been expecting you. And welcome to your companions as well. The Windfish sleeps a chamber beyond this one. I am the guardian of this chamber. In order to leave, you must pass my trial.”
“We heard this already,” Matilda groaned.
“Are you prepared?”
“We’re prepared,” Link said.
“Please stand in a line.”
“All right,” Link mumbled. He made a gesture and the heroes assembled, Zelda shoulder to shoulder with Link, Matilda on his other side then Carry and finally Valerie on the end.
The woman waved her hand. A gentle breeze blew across the chamber. This had the duel effect of wiping clean all the footprints made by the travelers and calming their heated tempers. She held her hands out in front of her, palms facing up. There was a green glow that appeared and when it vanished, the Master Sword was in her hands.
“Link, it’s your sword,” Matilda hissed.
Ignoring the whispers, the stranger floated an inch or so off of the ground, approaching the assembly. She turned the point of the Master Sword down, right near Zelda’s foot and moved down the line, dragging the point along with her to create a line in the sand. When she reached Valerie, she planted the blade behind Valerie’s foot and moved in the opposite direction, creating a line behind their heels.
“Another riddle?” Carry wondered.
“I don’t think so,” Zelda whispered, more to herself than to her companions.
By this time, the woman had reached the pyre once more. She floated up, hanging in the air just above the kindling. “Whatever comes to pass in this room,” she said, “whatever you see or hear, you must not cross those lines, not until that door,” she pointed to the far end of the room, “opens. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Link said.
“Got it,” Matilda added.
The woman held her hands up over her head. Instantly, her body was reduced to flame again. She dropped down, into the wood of the pyre. As she did, the flame turned from green to a haunting orange. The lights in the room dimmed, leaving the heroes in the firelight, their faces all glowing.
Matilda looked down the line at Valerie. “Now what?”
“Now we wait,” Valerie responded with a slight shrug.
“As if you didn’t know,” Matilda mumbled dryly, turning back to face the glowing pyre.
An ominous cackle arose from the flames themselves. “You don’t even want to know,” a nasal scoff answered Matilda.
Matilda’s face blanched. “Oh…” she moaned softly, her hands shaking as they came to her face.
“What is it, Matilda?” Link asked.
“Yes, what is it Matilda?” the fire mimicked mockingly.
“It’s him,” she cried softly, “it’s the Voice.”
“Hawk?” Carry said, looking around the room.
Zelda scowled. “He’s dead.”
“He’s come back!” Matilda wailed. She lifted a foot to back away from the fire. On either side of her, Carry and Link grabbed her arms, holding her securely. “Let me go!” she screamed. “He’s coming for me!” She thrashed against them, but to no good as both wore Power Bracelets.
“It’s just part of the trial,” Link whispered, trying to still her before her foot could cross over one of the lines drawn around them.
“Matilda,” the Voice taunted her, laughing. “Matilda…”
“Courage,” Zelda muttered. “This is a test of courage.” She looked at Matilda. “Matty, you are one of the bravest people I know. You’re not afraid of any phantoms of the past, are you?”
Matilda took a shaky breath. She slowed the thrashing of her limbs, drawing herself up straight. “It’s not real,” she chanted to herself. “It’s not real.”
The laughter from the pyre slowly faded away. “You see?” Link said. “Nothing to be afraid of.”
“But what is fear, really?” a new voice asked from the fire. “I think it’s the absence of hope.”
“We know that voice,” Carry said quietly.
The flames parted much like a curtain. Walking on thin air, out stepped a handsome young man with hazel eyes and dirty blond hair. He walked toward the group, looking directly at Link and Marin. “Kurt,” Zelda murmured. She recoiled slightly at the sight of a gaping wound in the middle of his chest.
Kurt dipped his head to Zelda before turning to Link. “You,” he said, “for example, are completely hopeless.”
Link turned to look down the line at Matilda, Carry, and Valerie. “Do not engage whatever you see in this room,” he instructed them.
“Right,” Matilda said with a nod.
“It must kill you,” Kurt continued, glaring at Link. “I mean, you have her now,” he gestured absently to Zelda, “but it must really eat away at you, knowing that I possessed her first.” Shakily, Link curled his fingers up into fists at his side. “Knowing that touched those fingers first, that I kissed her lips, that I…”
“You lowborn, miserable vermin reject…” Link growled.
He started to take a menacing step forward. Zelda planted her hand on his shoulder, turning him slightly to look her in the eyes. “He never possessed me,” she told him firmly. “Courage sometimes means knowing when to choose your battles. Believe me, this isn’t a battle worth fighting.”
“I’m sorry,” Link said, lowering his foot.
“Don’t you dare get jealous again. There’s nothing to get jealous about,” she assured him. When they both turned to look at the phantom again, he had vanished.
“How about me? Am I a battle worth fighting?” a voice asked from deep within the flames.
“Flame’s voice,” Carry supplied.
Matilda rolled her eyes. “Puh-lease. You’re dead! Get over it!”
“Evil never stays dead,” a new voice answered.
“Dragmire,” Zelda said, taking a deep breath and steeling herself in her place.
“He really needs to get some new lines,” Matilda jibbed.
“It’s not going to work!” Link shouted. “None of this is real! It’s all an illusion.”
“Apt words for someone about to wake the Windfish, lad.”
Zelda’s resolve melted visibly on her face. “Tarin?” she whispered.
Beside her, Link put an arm around her waist. “It’s not real. You know the real Tarin wouldn’t try to distract you like this.”
“I know…I know…”
“The test is over!” Link roared. “None of this is real.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” Gene’s voice replied.
Carry groaned. “Stay dead.”
“This isn’t going to work,” Link called.
“Yeah!” Matilda added. “None of us are crossing the dumb line.”
“We’re not going to charge into battle against a pyre.”
“And we’re not going to run away.”
With a soft puff, the fire on the pyre extinguished itself. There was the groan of rock grinding against rock and the door on the other side of the room slowly rolled open. “We may pass to the next chamber,” Valerie declared, grinning slightly.
“You better believe it,” Matilda crowed triumphantly.
As they made their way toward the door, Zelda looked back over her shoulder. The lines in the sand gleamed; turning neon green then they vanished, leaving nothing but their memory behind.
There was a knock on the door.
The door swung open. Sure enough, Richard was on the other side. He came sauntering into the room. “Good evening, Crazy Tracy,” he said merrily.
“What do you want? I’m really in no mood for our usual conversation: You ask me a favor, I say no, you blackmail me, I say yes.”
Richard frowned a little. “Actually, I came to give it back.”
“Give it back? Give what back?”
“Your secret. I give it back.”
“I don’t understand.”
Richard shrugged. “I’m through. With the secret hunting, the blackmailing, all of it. I’m through. I renounce it.”
“You’re giving up your secret hunting? Not that I’m upset but…why? How?”
“You said people don’t change.”
“I was wrong.”
“Then don’t bother saying anything,” Richard cut her off.
“This is for real. You’re not going to blackmail me anymore?”
“No, I’m not.”
She looked thoughtful for a moment. “Will you stop calling me Crazy Tracy?” she tried.
Richard laughed a hearty, sincere laugh. “I’m afraid there are some things that don’t change so easily. You are still quite mad.”
“It was worth a shot.”
He walked to her, bowing respectfully, as a gentleman. “I give it back,” he told her gently.
“So no more blackmail?” she asked once more, just to be certain.”
“As the gods are my witness, Crazy Tracy, no one will ever hear the truth from me. I’ll never tell anyone that you have six toes on your left foot.”
The third chamber was filled with
fog. A gentle mist rolled over the
floor, making impossible to tell if they walked on stone or tile. As the group shuffled in, each member fell
silent, entranced by the serene smoke; pure white. Predictably, there was a door on the far end
of the chamber, but that was nowhere near as interesting at the moment as the
walls. They were gilded, much like those
“Wow,” Matilda uttered, speaking for all of them. Torch light bounced off of the gold on the walls, casting thousands of reflections on the mist, giving it the appearance of a waving field of gold barely.
Zelda walked over to one of the walls, examining the depiction on it. She saw the image of a fantastically beautiful woman wearing a tiara with dangling beads falling over her forehead. The frozen figure seemed to be rising out of the sea, surrounded by a flock of peacocks. Valerie walked to Zelda’s shoulder. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“What is it?” Zelda asked.
“That is the story of the birth of Cyane,” Valerie answered.
“The Hylian myth about the creation of wine. Cyane was born when
the tears of Farore fell into the
“Not a myth,” Valerie told her. “More of a legend. These walls tell the history of Hyrule, from the beginning of time.”
“Not that wall,” Matilda said, pointing to the wall to the left of the door on the other end of the room. It was blank.
“That is for history yet to be written,” Valerie explained. “There are legends in this world yet to unfold.”
“As impressive as this is,” Link said, “we should be moving on.”
“Do you really expect that door is going to stay open?” Valerie asked. Even as she finished the question, the door on the opposite end of the room slammed shut. This time, as the echo was still ringing through the room, the door completely vanished, leaving behind a solid, blank wall.
“Figures,” Link grumbled.
As expected, a third flame appeared in the middle of the room. This time, the flame was red and as it formed into a woman, identical to the ones who had come before, she had glowing red skin with orange hair and an orange set of robes. The woman opened her mouth to speak, but Matilda suddenly cut her off. “We’ve come to wake the Windfish,” she said in exasperation. She pointed to Link. “He is the Hero of time.” She pointed to Zelda. “She is the Princess of Destiny.”
“We’re welcome,” Link added.
“You’ve been expecting us,” Zelda continued.
Carry stepped forward. “And their companions as well.”
“The Windfish sleeps a chamber beyond this one,” Matilda recited. “You are the guardian of this chamber. In order to leave, we must pass your trial.” She glanced at Valerie. “Am I missing anything?”
The guardian of the chamber laughed merrily. “I see you have met my sisters,” she mused.
“We’re prepared for your trial,” Carry said solemnly.
“I’m afraid you are mistaken,” the woman told him.
“What do you mean?” Zelda asked.
“I have no trial for you.”
“Then let us pass,” Matilda demanded.
“I have no trial,” the woman continued, “but I do have a gift.”
Link raised an eyebrow. “A gift?”
She turned, addressing him directly. “For you, Hero of Time. Step forward, Link.”
Link threw an uncertain glance at Valerie. “Go on,” she prompted him.
“All right,” Link sighed, stepping forward to face the guardian of the chamber.
“Close your eyes, Hero,” she instructed him. As Link closed his eyes, the woman reached forward, touching him on the forehead. Instantly, despite the fact that his eyes were closed, Link’s vision was filled with an unfamiliar scene. He saw a royal ship of the line. It seemed to be caught in a terrible tempest, rocking back and forth violently. “What do you see?”
“I see a ship,” Link answered, squeezing his eyes tighter.
He didn’t know how, but somehow, Link found his vision closing in on the ship. In specific, on the deck, surrounded by thick columns of cherry wood that bulged out on the bottoms. As the lightening struck in his vision, these pillars took on a terrifying white glow. In this light, he saw a frightened little girl standing on the deck, clutching the railing with milk white knuckles. Something glistened around her neck. A necklace? It was! A silver necklace with a pendant in the shape of a teardrop. “I see Zelda,” he said breathlessly.
“What?” Zelda asked incredulously.
Ignoring the outburst, the strange woman continued to address Link. “You see her as she was ten years ago.”
“She’s so afraid,” Link muttered, watching as the ship began to split apart.
“Of course she’s afraid, she’s facing certain doom.”
“But she lived.”
“She didn’t know she would.”
The ship was reduced to splinters before Link’s very eyes. He watched, holding his breath, as the younger version of Zelda was flung into the icy depths. The ships steering wheel landed in the water beside her with a noisy splash. Zelda grabbed it, clinging for dear life as the wheel began to drift away from the remains of the ship and the other helpless victims of the storm. “Why are you showing me this?” Link asked bitterly.
“Open your eyes, Hero.” Link complied. “That event is the event that shaped your entire life, both of your lives,” the woman said. “It is what brought you into this world. It is what trapped you on Koholint.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“To explain the gift I offer you. You are the Hero of Time, and as such, you have certain special abilities that even you are not fully aware of yet. I can grant you the power to prevent this shipwreck. You will save Zelda ten years on this island and yourself a year, not to mention many long seasons of anguish over her death.”
“Alter history?” Link asked uncertainly.
“Close your eyes.” As Link closed his eyes again, the woman touched his forehead. A new vision appeared before him. This time, he saw himself, looking very much as he did now. Beside him was Zelda, looking positively radiant in a purple gown of rich silk. They walked together, arm in arm through a field. Link wasn’t sure how, but somehow, he knew that field belonged to them. “What do you see?”
“I see myself,” Link answered. “And Zelda.”
“Where are you?”
Again, Link found himself looking
closer at the scene. On the glowing
horizon, beside the setting sun, he could make out the silhouette of
“What you see now,” the woman explained, “is what your life could have been if the shipwreck had never taken place. No Koholint, no Nightmares…”
As Link looked closer at the vision, he noticed that Zelda appeared decidedly pregnant. “No impalement,” he added wistfully.
“I beg your pardon?” Zelda, the real Zelda, snapped.
The woman’s fingers brushed across Link’s forehead. The vision was wiped away, replaced with a new one. He saw himself, much older than present, sitting beside an older Zelda by a fireplace. Several children were curled up at their feet. The building was lavish and luxurious. They were well off. “This could be your future,” the woman whispered to Link. “Open your eyes.”
Reluctantly, Link opened his eyes to find himself facing reality. “That could be me?”
In response, the woman waved her hand in the air. In the middle of the chamber, a large pit opened up. A bright red glow spilled out from the pit, turning the fog around it crimson. “That is my gift to you,” she said. “All you need to do is jump into that pit and you’ll find yourself back on the docks of Hyrule, able to prevent Zelda’s ship from leaving.”
“And neither of us will ever come to Koholint?”
“That is correct.”
Link frowned. “What about Koholint?”
“What would happen to it?”
“It would continue on as it always had.”
“Under the dominion of the Nightmares.”
Link frowned. “So if I change the past for my own benefit, I’m just condemning the people of this island.”
Zelda walked over to Link’s side. She took his arm gently. “The greatest test of Power is knowing when not to use it,” she told him softly.
He looked at her. As he did, all the visions, blissful though they were, melted away. All he saw was her: The person he treasured beyond anything else. “I thank you for your gift,” Link said to the woman, though he continued to stare at Zelda, “but I must decline. Zelda and I have a purpose on this island. We need to liberate the people. I won’t sacrifice their future for my own happiness.”
“That is your decision?” the woman questioned.
She smiled blithely. “You have passed my trial.”
Link opened his mouth to respond, but he found that he could not speak. A great drowsiness fell upon him. As he watched, he realized the others were equally mute. Against the wall, Valerie collapsed, sliding down the wall with her cheek against one of the friezes. Carry dropped like a rock, rattling the torches and next to him, Matilda sank to her knees before falling face first into the fog. The strength in Link’s own knees waned and he felt himself falling. To his side, Zelda also collapsed. Then, there was nothing but darkness.
When they woke up, they immediately knew they had been teleported again. The gold walls and the flowing fog of the last chamber were gone. Instead, they found themselves in relative simplicity, on an amethyst platform. So high it was that they could not see the ground, the island below them. All around were shining stars and hovering lower, rainbow colored clouds that swirled with the great wind below, which somehow did not reach the heroes.
“What was that?” Matilda asked, first to regain her senses.
“The final trial,” Zelda answered drowsily, sitting up. “It makes sense now: Wisdom, Courage, and Power.”
“Glad someone knows what’s going
on,” Matilda deadpanned.
“And now for the next obvious question,” Link muttered. “Where are we?”
His question was answered by the sudden hoot of an owl. The five of them looked up in amazement. In the stratosphere with them was Ezri, swooping down toward the platform at a terrific speed. “Between the world and the Sacred Realm,” Valerie muttered to herself as she rose, kneeling with her head bowed.
Carry looked over at her. “Are we supposed to do that too?” Without waiting for an answer, he shifted onto one knee, trying in his clumsy way to imitate Valerie.
As the others all complied, Ezri arrived, hovering in the air a few feet before the platform. He only flapped his wings once in awhile, indicating that he clearly did not need them to stay aloft. “Young children,” he addressed them. “I mean…young heroes. You have defeated all the Nightmares!”
“Yes,” Link said, speaking for the group once again.
“You have proven your Wisdom, Courage, and Power!”
“I knew it,” Zelda hissed under her breath.
“As the Sage of Farore, I am the guardian of this dream world…but one day the Nightmares began wreaking havoc. Then you, Link and Zelda, came to rescue the island. I have always trusted in your courage to turn back the Nightmares. Thank you, heroes…my work is done. The Windfish will wake soon.”
Carry lifted his head, his eyes growing somewhat glossy. “Goodbye?” he asked carefully.
“Goodbye,” Ezri whispered back. With another hoot, his wings flapped again and he turned, gliding effortlessly through the air back into the oblivion from which he had come.
Slowly, they began rising to their feet. “Now what?” Matilda wondered.
“We wait for the Windfish to wake?” Link supposed.
“Well, don’t we have to poke him or ring an alarm bell or something?”
“I think it’s just supposed to happen.”
Valerie had begun digging through her satchel. “Ezri said it would just be a matter of moments. We wait.”
No sooner had she uttered the words than the ground beneath them began to shake. “I don’t think he’s a morning person,” Matilda quipped. She stumbled, nearly falling over the edge, but Carry caught her, pulling her back to the middle of the platform.
Zelda crashed against Link. He reached out, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close. “Zelda, there’s something I really need to ask you.”
“In case we die!”
“What is it?” She was so close she could feel his heart pounding.
“I realized that I don’t want to go another nine years separated from you. I want to be with you the rest of my life, even if it ends in a minute. Marry me, Zelda.”
She seemed a little baffled. “Of course,” she answered as thought it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“You’re not just saying that because we might die?”
Zelda didn’t answer. Instead, she touched a hand to his cheek and leaned in, brushing her lips against his. Link put a hand on the small of her back; he deepened the kiss, pulling her into a tighter embrace. As they stood there, on that event horizon, a swirl of color began to encircle the platform. Matilda let out an audible gasp, drawing the lovers’ attention back to reality. They pulled back, holding each other still as they watched the color.
Like a cloud, it began to gather at one end of the platform, before the heroes assembled. The cloud of color began to take shape, swirling about itself until all at once, it began real. What it was could not be well described. In the most simplistic of terms, it appeared to be an enormous humpback whale with tiny, delicate feathered wings of white. But the creature before them was far from simplistic. All across its body were beautiful patters and textures, illuminated by brilliant colors; pink, purple, gold, teal, and cream.
The creature hovered in the sky, in profile to the group, with one giant, sad eye looking them over. Three diamonds flanked the eye, each one shining like a star and flashing reflections down on the platform. When it finally spoke, the voice it used was rich and powerful, filling the void with a dominated echo. “I am the Windfish,” the creature said.
Slowly, the five of them came together, looking up in awe. “That’s the Windfish…” Carry whispered, wide eyed.
“I am the Windfish,” the creature answered. “Long has been my slumber…In my dreams…an Egg appeared and was surrounded by an island with people, animals, an entire world!”
“That’s Catsy’s doing,” Matilda hissed to the others.
The Windfish continued on without acknowledging this. “But, verily, it is the nature of dreams to end! When I dost awaken, Koholint will be gone…”
“No…” Matilda moaned fiercely.
“Only the memory of this dream land will exist in the waking world…” The Windfish turned his eye to look solely at Link and Zelda. “Someday, thou may recall this island…”
“No!” Matilda shouted.
“That memory must be the real dream world…”
“We came to save these people!” Zelda cried. “Not to destroy them!”
“Come, Link and Zelda,” the Windfish declared, “let us awaken…”
“Listen to her!” Link barked.
“Let us awaken together!” The Windfish suddenly dematerialized into the cloud of color again. It began swirling around the platform at an accelerated rate, like a brilliant tornado. “Play the eight Instruments!” the cloud ordered them. “Play the song of awakening!”
Link frowned suddenly. “I don’t have the instruments.” He looked at Zelda. “Do you?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Who has them?” Matilda squealed.
At once, all eyes turned to Valerie. She seemed remarkably calm, watching the cyclone around them. One hand was still in her satchel. As if sensing the eyes on her, she slowly pulled her hand out, opening her palm. Much to everyone’s surprise, instead of the eight specks of gold, Valerie produced the Ocarina of Time. “Your test is over,” she said quietly. She cast her free hand in their direction, a beam of light shooting at each of them. Link and Zelda fell apart as the light struck each of their hands.
Valerie closed her eyes. In a flash of light, more brilliant than any she had produced in the real world (whatever that was), she spread her white wings, letting them flap gently as she rose up into the sky, directly in the center of the swirling colors. “What’s she doing?” Carry wondered breathlessly.
“I have no idea,” Zelda answered, clutching her hand in pain.
Rising higher still, Valerie put the ocarina to her lips. A song came forth, sad, but at the same time powerful and filled with life. “I know that song,” Link breathed, also clutching his hand.
“What is it?” Matilda asked fearfully.
“That’s called Zelda’s Lullaby. It’s written in the Chronicles of Time”
Zelda looked at him. “What does Time have to do with this?”
“Time has everything to do with everything. It’s the very fabric of…”
“Of what?” Matilda prompted him.
“…reality.” Link couldn’t get out another sentence to
convey what he meant. Once more, he felt
consciousness slipping away from him.
This time was different though.
Instead of completely blacking out, it seemed that his senses were
aflame. He felt the odd sensation of
rocking, as though he were back on the sea.
In fact, he could almost feel water lapping against his face and
arms. In his eyes, or perhaps only in
his mind, he saw such strange sights that he was nearly convinced they were
real. Clear as day, he saw the
“Zelda?” a voice implored in the echoic darkness. “Zelda?” The echo began to fade, making the voice some more and more realistic and less and less like some dream phantom. “Zelda?” The third time, it was clear that Link’s voice was the one asking for her. Begrudgingly, and not really knowing why, Zelda forced her eyes open.
She couldn’t see anything at first, just a great white blur of light and movement. Blinking her eyes, she tried to wipe away the heavy drowsiness. A pink blob appeared directly in the middle of her sightlines. As she continued to blink, the colors came into focus, revealing yellows and greens and blues. Two pools of blue directly in front of her. Link’s eyes. “Link?” she asked tiredly, her voice thick with sleep still. She started to sit up.
“Easy,” Link said, putting his hand on her shoulder.
As Zelda’s vision cleared, she realized that she was lying on a cot, dressed in nothing but her chemise. Link was kneeling on the ground in front of her, looking very drowsy. She rose, swinging her legs over the edge of the cot to sit straight. “Where are we?”
“My hut. It’s morning.”
“We’re still on Koholint?”
“What?” She looked around. Indeed, they were in the great ugly hovel that Link had built in the tanglewood field. Daylight was streaming in through the many gaps and slits of the clumsy walls. “I don’t…I don’t understand…”
“I’ve been trying to piece it together for an hour now. I only just woke up. I don’t understand either.”
“What do you remember?”
Link licked his lips. “I remember being in the Egg. I remember going through those three chambers and then ending up in the sky.”
“Yes, there were stars and…those clouds with all the colors,” Zelda added.
“I remember him.”
“And then…” Link floundered.
Zelda shook her head. “I don’t remember.”
“We must have made our wish,” Link supposed.
“What did we wish?”
“To go home?”
“But…we’re still here.”
“Maybe that was bad phrasing. This has been our home for a long while now. Hylian religious icons can be very literal.”
“Suppose we wished to go to Hyrule. That exact phrasing.”
“Then,” Link muttered slowly, “our wish did not come true.” They both fell silent under this heavy thought. Link looked to the floor. “Oh,” he mumbled absently. Turning around, he picked up a nicely wrapped package from the other side of the blanket hanging over the door, accidentally knocking his sword over. “This came for you.” He sat down on the edge of the bed next to her, handing over the package.
“What is it?”
“A birthday present from Marnie.” He paused a moment, before adding very gently. “Happy birthday.” Hesitantly, Zelda opened the box, looking inside. She let the lid fall back into place. “What is it?”
“It’s…” Zelda pried the lid off again. From the box, she removed a light green dress. The trim around the sleeves and hem was cream lace, consisting of rows of triangles framed by teal fabric. Around the middle of the dress and tied much too tightly, was a crimson sash.
“Your old dress. Marnie fixed it.” The fabric slipped from Zelda’s fingers, the box clattering to the ground. Her face crumpled as a tear fell from the corner of her eye. “Zelda…” He pulled off his gauntlets, flinging them to the floor as he gathered her into his arms.
“Nothing changes, Link,” she said darkly, resting her cheek on his shoulder.
“Nothing changes. After everything we’ve been through, it’s all the same. We’re still here.”
“Don’t say that.”
She pulled back, looking him in the eye and gripping his collar. “Link, that was our only way home.”
“There’s got to be another way!” He smoothed down her hair. “There’s got to be…”
“There isn’t…” she whispered.
“Well…even if there isn’t…”
She looked up at him. “Yes?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Link declared firmly.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m prepared to live out the rest of my days on Koholint. As long as I’m with you.”
“I want to be with you the rest of my life.”
Zelda stared at him for a moment, a look of confusion passing over her eyes. “Even if it ends in a minute…” she said slowly.
He seemed taken aback. “Have I said that before?”
“I don’t know.”
“It sounds so…”
Link absently brushed a few stray strands of hair away from Zelda’s face. “I wish I could take your pain away. I mean really it. So we don’t get back to Hyrule. So what?”
“I’ve never heard you talk like that before.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Link insisted, clearly trying to convince himself as much as her. “None of it matters. All that matters is that I’m with you.” He put his hands on the sides of her face, brushing away a tear with his thumb. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Nothing else matters,” he said, slipping his fingers under her chin and tilting her head back so that he could tenderly kiss her. Zelda closed her eyes. Link kissed her eyelids before resting his forehead against hers.
“We went through all of that for nothing.”
“Nothing.” He folded his arms around her, pulling her close, so close that he could feel her heart beat. With that, he tilted his head to one side, kissing her jaw line. Zelda leaned her head back. Slowly, Link kissed down her throat to the base of her neck, where it met with her shoulder.
“Nothing,” she breathed, wrapping her arms around his neck. Her cheek brushed against his. He was warm, his skin soothing to her hysterical nerves. As her fingers slowly traveled up, entwining in his hair, Link pulled back. He reached up and took one of her hands away, pressing her fingers to his face. His lips traveled up her hand, resting on her wrist. “What’s the matter, Link?”
“Nothing.” He touched her chin, kissing her lips. “Nothing at all.” Gently, he put her hand on his chest, over his heart. With his hand free he brushed her hair back, off of her neck. Uncertainly, he slid the sleeve of her chemise back, away from her shoulder and leaned forward, brushing his lips against her majestic skin. “I love you so much,” he told her.
Zelda touched his face. “I love you.”
He looked up from her shoulder. “Are you sure? If you’re not, then…”
“I’m sure,” she interrupted, caressing his face. “Are you?”
“More than anything.” With that, his lips fell upon hers. There were no more words. Perhaps from grief, perhaps from a sense of defeat, but most decidedly out of love, their passion for one another spiraled out of control.
It was an absolutely glorious day. Gone were the winds that had whipped the shores last night. And as for that eerie darkness? Well, it must have been to compensate for how brilliant the sun in the sky was this morning. The sky was perfect: Just the right shade of blue with enough clouds to prove that the wind was gone, but not enough to block out the glowing sunlight. On the beach, the sand was damp and moist, not scorching off the soles of people’s sandals or bare feet.
With a luxurious sigh, she sat back on her heels, looking up at the clouds. They were just so perfect today! It was as if some divine painter and dabbed them onto a blue canvas. Her eyes moved westward, taking in the sights. Suddenly, she noticed a strange set of clouds just above the highest sea cliff. Squinting, she stood up, moving down the shore, her basket forgotten. She had never seen clouds like those before. They were completely white, but they seemed closer to the ground somehow, bellowing and swelling with the breeze. It was almost as if they were being anchored down by a…
“Tell them what?”
“There’s a ship!” she shouted in exhilaration, pointing to the strange clouds she now knew to be the sails. Without bothering to wait and see if the boy understood what she had just said, Tracy continued racing down the beach, yelling “Ship!” as loud as she could.
Sure enough, a small cluster of
denizens of Koholint began to appear, drawn either by
the sails which they saw for themselves, or by the hysterical cries of good old
Crazy Tracy. As they gathered near the
They had all seen pictures of ships in the books of the library, but nothing compared to seeing the real thing. And this wasn’t just some ordinary merchant vessel; this was a decadent, luxury liner. Brilliant banners of purple and gold hung from the doors and windows. A railing of pure, glistening cherry wood rounded the top deck where a gaggled of sailors, all in an exotic and foreign uniform peered down uneasily at the group gathering.
“Look at their ears!” little Dawn shouted, pointing a chubby finger up at the men and women on the deck. Certain enough, everyone else now observed that the sailors had pointed ears, exactly like Link’s ears.
There seemed to be some commotion among the sailors. A man in armor walked out onto the deck and conversed with them in muttered tones. “Lower the gangplank!” one of the sailors finally barked to the others.
“They speak our language,” Grandma Ulrira observed. “Yoo hoo! Hello up there!”
As all the citizens of Koholint hovered near the base of the sea cliff, too afraid to move to the edge, the gangplank of the great ship slowly dropped down onto the land. From the darkness of the cargo hold, there was a clatter of metal. Two lines of knights, decked out in their finest armor, marched down the plank, six of them flanking one end of the plank, six on the other end. There was a collective gasp from the islanders, all of them staying frozen to their cluster.
Following the soldiers a few moments later, a beautiful woman in robes of purple came down the plank. Halfway down, she stopped, throwing a reluctant look back over her shoulder. An elderly couple, also in purple, had appeared at the mouth of the gangplank. The patron gave her an encouraging nod. Steeling herself, the young woman turned back to face the collection of people. “On behalf of the royal navy of Hyrule, I apologize for intruding on your island. Our ship was blown off course by the winds. Please, tell me, what land is this?”
All of the islanders looked at one
another, each daring the other to say something. “
She craned her neck, trying to see who had answered her question. Pushing his way through the crowd, she saw a tow headed boy in a green tunic. Her eyes nearly bugged out. “Link?” she whispered.
Link had been in the library,
retrieving a pad of paper he left there last night. When he heard
Amanda let out a great cry. She surged forward onto the ground and pulled Link to his feet, wrapping her arms around him. “Link!” she cried. “You’re alive! Mother! Father! Look! It’s Link!” Amanda pulled out of the hug, grabbing Link’s arm and pulling him up the gangplank to where the royal couple stood.
“That is most unseemly for royalty,” Richard muttered to someone else in the crowd who properly ignored him.
Link knelt before the King and Queen. “Your majesties,” he said dipping his head.
Queen Gilda clasped her hands in front of her chest. “Link, we thought you were dead.”
“You thought incorrectly, madam.”
“This is a most unexpected twist of fate,” the King said, stroking his beard. “Most unexpected indeed.”
“The goddesses have a way,” Gilda told her husband with a stern smile. “And now they’ve brought Link back to us.”
“Get up, get up,” Amanda urged Link, smacking his arm playfully. Link obediently rose to his feet.
“How did you come to be here?” Gilda asked.
“I was blown here by the wind of Farore after the shipwreck,” Link explained. Though he meant no disrespect to the royal family, his eyes wandered away from them, looking back over his shoulder at the growing collection of islanders.
“I knew you were too wily to be drowned,” the King muttered.
Amanda slapped his shoulder. “How long have you been here?”
“A year,” he answered.
She hit him again. “Why didn’t you send word? Why didn’t you come home?”
“I was unable to,” Link replied, grinning at Amanda.
The Queen’s face filled with concern. “Were you being held prisoner here?”
“In a way.”
“What do you mean?”
Link looked over his shoulder again and his eyes lit up. “Your majesties,” he said, quickly addressing the King and Queen. “I should like very much to present to you the girl I intend to marry.”
“Well, the boy is certainly high on propriety today,” the King muttered.
“We’d love to meet her, this girl who has held your heart prisoner,” Gilda told him with a wry smile.
Link positively beamed. He turned at once, racing down the gangplank. He had spotted her. Near a palm tree, hanging at the back of the growing mob, Zelda stood, wearing that old green dress. As Link ran, the people were quick to move out of his way. With a clear path, Link ran straight to her. “Well?” he asked softly, slowing down and holding out a hand to her.
She looked at him, her blue eyes filled with a thousand different thoughts, her mind clearly racing. “Well what?”
Zelda slipped her hand into his. “I will.”
He raised her knuckles to his lips, kissing them gently. “I love you.”
“I love you more.”
With that, Link seized her hand and began running, pulling her back through the crowd which parted again. She raced after him, holding a handful of skirt in her free hand. “Your majesties,” Link wheezed as he leaped up onto the gangplank, starting to get out of breath. “Marin of Koholint.”
Zelda stared at the three of them, completely frozen in fear. “Link,” Gilda said kindly, “she’s beautiful.”
“Your majesties,” Zelda finally stuttered, dropping into a low curtsy.
“A bit shy isn’t she?” the King murmured.
Link’s eyes met Zelda’s. Slowly, he crouched down beside her. “Your majesties,” he called. Without saying another word, and in completely silent agreement with Zelda, he touched her hair gently, pushing it back away from her ear. A thousand sparkles of blue ether floated up into the air, circling the citizens of Koholint who exchanged looks with one another.
Amanda quirked an eyebrow. “A Hylian? How did she get so far out here?”
“The same way I did,” Link replied.
“A shipwreck,” Zelda explained in what could barely pass for a whisper it was so faint.
The Queen suddenly stepped forward. She walked over to Zelda and knelt in front of her gently. With trembling fingers, she reached forward, taking hold of the charm of Zelda’s necklace which dangled before her. Her old, tired eyes examined the silver tear for a moment. “My gods…” she finally said.
Amanda scowled. “Mother? What is it?”
Gilda surged forward, drawing Zelda into her arms, tears streaming down her withered cheeks. “Zelda…” she whispered.
For the second time, Amanda’s eyes bugged. “What?” She too dropped to her knees, prying mother and daughter apart to examine Zelda critically. “Sweet Nayru…it is you! It is!” She wrapped her arms around Zelda. Gilda, not one to be left out, enfolded both of her daughters.
“My lord,” Link said to the King who was watching the scene with glazed eyes. “I request the hand of your daughter.”
“How can I deny the boy who has brought her back from the dead? If she will have you, then she is yours.”
By this time, Zelda had looked up in the direction of her father. “Father…” she said softly.
“Well, Zelda? Will you have him?”
Zelda rose to her feet. She walked up the plank touching her father’s hands with her fingertips. “Yes.”
The King patted her hair affectionately. “Guards,” he said, draping an arm over her shoulders. “Show some respect for Princess Zelda and her future husband.”
Instantly, the knights kneeled on the sea cliff. Richard’s jaw nearly hit the ground with an audible thunk. “Marin’s a Princess?”
“As you are ten years late for your homecoming,” the King said to her, “I see no reason to delay it any longer. Go collect your things. We’re taking you home to Hyrule.”
Elinor waved her hand. “Me too! I want to go!”
Many others in the crowd began to
speak up, expressing a desire to leave Koholint. Link and Zelda looked at the King. With a chuckle, he nodded his head. “I think there should be room for anyone who
wants to come. The
“Yes,” Gilda said, rising to her feet. “This island has sheltered our precious Zelda. We will reward you in any way we can.”
Of course, not everyone wanted to leave Koholint. Molly and the Ulriras were certainly too old to be interested in such nonsense as foreign lands. There was no way Lexx would uproot his family to leave either and although Marnie wanted to go, she knew she would have to wait until her children were a little older. For all the misery Koholint had caused him, Richard also mysteriously elected to stay. The fact of the matter was that most of the inhabitants were content to stay put on their island home.
Tracy and Elinor couldn’t wait to start their travels, however. Summer was very ready to go, as was Mr. Write. Never one to be left behind, Matilda would also join the sea voyage. As it didn’t take her long to pack, she was one of the first to return to the beach, a knapsack thrown over her shoulder. Down on the sand, she noticed Carry and, deciding that she had plenty of time to kill, she scaled down the rocks and walked to him. He had taken a large stick in his hand and was spelling out the word ‘Koholint’ in the sand. “What are you doing?”
“People are going to start coming here now,” he explained as he crossed the T. “They need to know the name of the island.”
“Good old Koholint,” Matilda laughed.
“You never thought it was good before,” Carry pointed out.
Matilda shrugged. “I know I’ll miss it once I’m gone.”
“I’m going to miss it too,” Carry said.
“Come on. We should get on the ship.” Matilda started to turn.
“Matilda,” Carry stopped her.
“I want to ask you something.”
“What is it?”
“Yesterday, why did you come to Catsy?”
“To say goodbye, I guess.”
“But why? You always hated her. You were always running away from her.”
Matilda bit her lip thoughtfully. “I don’t know,” she sighed. “I guess…I guess I just realized she wasn’t all that bad.”
“She’s a lot like you, you know. She seemed scary on the outside, but on the inside, I just knew that she wasn’t a monster.” Matilda touched the back of her neck. “When Hawk was in my head, I did a lot of bad things, a lot of questionable things, and even though she had the power and the right, I guess, to punish me for it, she never wanted to hurt me.”
“So it took a demon inside of your head to make you realize that Catsy loved you?”
“Yeah,” Matilda laughed. “Weird, isn’t it?” A moment of silence followed. Matilda squirmed a bit. “And I knew about the prophecy.”
“Yeah, the one saying that if one Nightmare killed another, they would all die or something.”
“I knew she was dying. And I guess…well, my mother and ancestors would never forgive me if I left our relationship like that. I mean, I had to make peace with her.”
“I think I understand.”
“In a way, we all owe her our lives. It’s like she’s the one who really created Koholint.”
“What do you mean?”
Matilda gestured to the writing in the sand. “This hunk of rock and sand is called Koholint, but what Koholint really is isn’t the pretty prison. It’s the inmates.”
“That’s strangely profound.”
“I know. I’m thinking of writing it down.”
Carry looked down the beach at the majestic ship, the first ever in harbor. “Are you scared?” he asked.
Matilda grinned, a playful gleam in her hazel eyes. “Not at all. You?”
He grinned back at her. “Of course not.”
With a small sigh, Matilda turned,
looking up north at the silhouette of
“Don’t say goodbye.”
“Well, what should I say then?”
“Say…” Carry frowned, deep in thought. “Say, ‘so long for now.’”
“You think we’ll ever come back here?”
“Never rule out the possibility.”
“All right.” She squared her shoulders, taking a deep breath. “So long for now, Koholint.” Matilda turned back to Carry. “How’s that?”
“Let’s get going. A kingdom awaits us.”
“What do you mean?”
Carry’s lips curled into a smile. “I remember.”
Matilda clapped Carry on the
shoulder. She turned, starting off in the
direction of the sea cliffs. Carry
lingered a moment, looking up at
Zelda knocked on the door. “Valerie?”
“Val!” Link called over Zelda’s shoulder. “Come out, it’s us!”
There was some rustling on the other side of the door. “Just a minute,” Valerie replied. A moment later, she opened the door and stepped out of the hut, shutting it behind her. “I thought you’d be on your way by now.”
“We wanted to see you first,” Link said.
“Valerie,” Zelda asked, “do you remember what happened in the Windfish’s Egg? I mean, after Ezri appeared.”
“You don’t? Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be terribly surprised,” Valerie muttered.
“Can you tell us what happened?”
She frowned. “You made your wish,” Valerie told them. “And proved your worth. You’ve passed the test.”
“Proved our worth for what?”
“Hold out your hands,” Valerie instructed them. Exchanging a confused look with one another, Link and Zelda obeyed. Valerie reached out and took Link’s right hand and Zelda’s left hand. She flipped them over and began rocking them back and forth. In the sunlight, a glimmer of gold appeared on the back of each of their hands. “Do you see that?”
“Yes,” Link said, watching in fascination.
“What that means,” Valerie explained carefully, “is that you each possess a fragment of the Triforce. It’s nothing you can hold, nothing you can touch or see. It’s inside of you. It is a great responsibility, one you’ve each proven yourselves capable of handling.”
“But what does that mean?” Zelda questioned her, pulling her hand away to examine the mark up close.
“It means,” Valerie said with a wry smile, “that this is not the end of your adventures. Rather, I should think that it is just the beginning.”
“That’s a horrible cliché, Val,” Link admonished her jokingly.
“Well, nobody’s perfect. Perhaps, it would be easier to say that people are perfect for each other.” Somewhere far away, on the shore, the faint blast of the ship’s horn could be heard resonating in the air. “And that is your ship. It’s taken ten years to come in; I don’t think you ought to miss it.”
Zelda looked at Valerie, her eyes suddenly saddened. “Valerie…”
Valerie held a hand up, stopping her. “I’m not one for big goodbyes,” she told them.
Link frowned. “Will we ever see you again?”
“Who can say?” she answered mysteriously. “But there is one thing I can promise you.”
“What’s that?” Zelda asked.
“A hundred years from now, your nephew will have a granddaughter named Zelda. And we’ll be there with her, to guide her the way I did with you two.”
A smile illuminated Zelda’s face. “She doesn’t know how lucky she’ll be.”
“All right,” Valerie said, breaking the tender moment of silence. “Off with you two now. You’ve got a life to start. A new adventure.”
Zelda and Link exchanged a look. Their fingers intertwined, they turned around, running off through the woods, the delightful tingle of Zelda’s laughter filling the air of the once frightening forest with mirth. Valerie watched them disappear. She turned her gaze upward. Ezri was flying in a low circle above the island. As she watched, he dipped his wing majestically, as if in a final bow to the shores, then slowly, he began to climb up into the sky.
Behind her, the door to Valerie’s hut opened and closed. She felt Richard’s hand snake around her waist, pressing against her stomach. “Do you think they knew?” he asked her.
Valerie shrugged, leaning her back against his chest. “What difference does it make?” she supposed. “The time of secrets is over.”
Richard opened his mouth to reply,
but Valerie did not see it. In her mind,
her eyes were up in the clouds with Ezri, soaring
higher and higher over the island. She
saw the tiny island huts cluttering up the
Higher and higher still. She saw the shores of Koholint, the name of the island branded into the sand. Beside it ran Link and Zelda, clutching hands tightly as if they feared to ever be separated again. They neared the ship, both of them laughing for they could not find the right words to say. Link ran up the gangplank, but Zelda lingered for a moment on the land. As their hands grew taut, Link turned around to look at her. Zelda gave him a grin and slowly stepped up onto the plank. Together, the two of them raced into the hold. They would be together forever, this much the pantheon knew. This was their destiny, the result of the decisions they had made. And such was the nature of dreams: They came from the heart.
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