*Note from the author. This story takes place a month following the events in "Secrets Two: The Coming of Ganondorf. It is recommended that the reader read both "Secrets" and "Secrets Two: The Coming of Ganondorf" before reading this story.*
She frowned, slowly rolling her head to one side and then back so that she stared up into the vast blue expanse above the clouds. Her heart was beating faster than normal and she tried to calm the pace. The sensation of her pulse was becoming unpleasant and she realized that the only way to satisfy her excitement would be to act upon it. Her sisters always teased her for being so impatient. Neither of them would have even considered taking action in such a short time. Ten years was nothing, still, she was neither Din nor Nayru. No, she was Farore. So what if they would tease her mercilessly for being so anxious? With resolve, she decided that she didn't care.
Lowering her chin, she reached out, holding each of her palms in front of her body. For a moment, she found herself strangely captivated by her hands. Although considered modest for a goddess, Farore had gained a certain appreciation for her own ethereal form. She was beautiful. Catlike green eyes glowed out of the abyss, accented in the light by her long emerald curls, contrasted by her white shimmering skin. Of course she could change her appearance whenever she wanted, but she enjoyed her traditional looks just fine. At least when she appeared in this form, people knew who they were dealing with.
There was one thing, though, that she didn't like about her appearance. Her hands. She hated the awkwardness of her fingers. In her opinion, her pinkies jutted out at odd angles. Naturally she had tried, over the millennia to make her hands more attractive. She had changed their color, adjusted the angles of her fingers, even painted her fingernails a metallic green, accented by sparkling stars, but nothing seemed to satisfy her hatred toward her hands.
She sighed. Now was not the time to be considering such trivial matters. There would be eternity enough to worry about her mannish hands, for now she had to pay attention to the mortal world. The nagging race of her heart, the indication of her impatience, had caught her attention once more.
Pursing her lips together, she began to blow, air racing over the tops of her palms and out into nothingness. Two shimmering explosions of gold appeared before her, each over one hand. With the powers of her mind, she willed the swirling masses to take form, turning them from shapeless clouds to her two familiars, the Angel and the Sage.
The Angel looked into the eyes of the goddess, her long golden hair billowing in the windless void. "Why do you summon us so soon?" she asked, her voice echoing off invisible walls and fading into nothingness.
"The time is right," Farore replied. "The stage has been set. The Princess of Destiny and the Hero of Time are reunited."
"But they are only children," the Angel argued. Farore smiled. She enjoyed it immensely when her familiars argued with her. Her sisters always teased her for giving them such freewill, but she didn't care. She liked speaking on an equal level with her friends.
"Children have to grow up," she reasoned, reassuring her Angel. "Besides, they have both faced Ganondorf Dragmire and survived. The Hero of Time has faced him twice."
The Angel nodded, unable to argue with that. "I am certain that they will measure up to your standards," she promised, as though she herself was responsible for their actions. "We are all as you created us."
"There will be difficult times ahead for them," Farore warned her friends, narrowing her eyes, thereby lowering the light surrounding the trio. "A great restlessness is stirring on my island."
"Richard is of no concern to you," the Angel said.
"I am not concerned with the great secret hunter," Farore cut her off, "so much as I am with the false gods of the island."
She nodded. "They will prove difficult. Yet I know as long as my guidance can be passed along through you two, the Princess and the Hero will not fail."
"How will we prepare them for the Nightmares?" the Angel asked nervously, fully knowing the answer.
Farore smiled. "We cannot."
"You are sending them out into the world alone then? Unprepared and flying on a wing and a prayer?"
Farore laughed. Her giggles were pleasant and floated on the air. "It's fun, isn't it? We shall see their better natures struggle with their lesser selves."
The Angel was not quite as amused. "Why are you testing them?" she asked curiously. "And why such a long spanning and complicated challenge?"
"If they were in line for an honor or a blessing, perhaps I would not have made this quest so difficult," Farore reasoned. "But they are not biding for an honor or a blessing. They are proving themselves worthy of carrying individual pieces of the Triforce. This is no small responsibility."
"So if they pass your test, then they shall be worthy to become Triforce Holders?" the Angel asked.
"And they will return home in triumph."
"That's all they want. At least, that's all the Hero wants." The Angel sighed, her royal blue eyes searching the space. "He dreams of Hyrule day and night."
"Pain is a part of being a Hero," Farore told her. "Each of the three Heroes of Hyrule must deal with their own individual pain. The loss of family. The loss of identity. The loss of home. It's in their ability to overcome that makes them different from the average Hylian."
"And the Princess?"
"She is descended from Sages. She must measure up to her lineage."
"And so you've decided to test them both together?"
"We both know there's more to this duel test than convenience," Farore replied merrily.
"There is love," the Angel responded without hesitation.
"Young love. Unstable love and insecure love, the best kind."
"Do you wish it to be so?"
"I do. With all my heart I do." Farore paused, listening to her pulse, which had calmed considerably since she summoned her familiars. "But I cannot will it to be so. I want to know if this is real love, love that can endure what is to come."
"What is to come?"
"A great many things," Farore said cryptically.
The Sage finally spoke. "For the present, what are we to do?" he asked. His voice was rich and musical, behind it was much more power than his small size betrayed.
Farore turned to look into his amber eyes. "You will tell them what the challenge is and how they are to meet it."
"Speak to them?" he asked, his voice without surprise, despite the rareness of the command.
"Words are the universal language," Farore teased him.
He stared back at her, unblinking, raising his dark, heavy eyebrows. "They are often alone on the beach. I will encounter them there."
"You must not let your keeper hear you speak," she warned him.
"I understand," he promised, bowing his head.
"I am trusting both of you to convey my words in the best way possible," Farore said. "Above all else, however, you must not betray the agenda. You have both been made a part of the island. Now that your time has finally arrived to act, you must not make mistakes."
"We will not fail you," the Angel said.
"Above all else, beware of the Nightmares. Though my power is great, I cannot protect you, I cannot protect anyone, from the powers of the false gods. They will make their move. I can feel them below, like the unpleasant parasites that they are, squirming and writhing. They know that the Princess and the Hero threaten their power and they will fight as hard as they can to ensure that the two of them never leave the island."
"Surely that can't be true," the Angel was horrified. "There is no power greater than yours. You are forever."
"The ultimate enemy of Courage is Fear. The Nightmares fear being defeated finally and forever."
"And you can do nothing?"
"I can only wait and hope that those two lost children can live up to my expectations for them."
"Never have expectations and you'll never be disappointed," the Sage said wisely.
"Never have expectations, and you'll have nothing to look forward to," Farore replied. "Now, return to my island. Live well and guide our Chosen Ones." She pressed her lips together and blew a rush of air onto her palms. Instantly, the Sage and the Angel dissolved, first into shades of yellow, blue, and bronze, then to the same gold mists that they had been before.
Farore held them on her hands for a moment longer, feeling their warmth. Unlike her sisters, she created her familiars out of pure light and love, giving them a warm, glowing aura. Reluctantly, she released her hold on them, returning them to the reality from which she had plucked them. Slowly, she lowered her arms, staring straight out into the blue horizon. Her pulse had eased completely. She was at peace. All that she had now to do was wait and see how her lost children would fare against the difficulties to come. Somehow, she knew in her heart of hearts that she would not be disappointed, but all the same, she felt a nervous energy creeping up the back of her throat. More heart fluttering was to come, but at least she would no longer have to wait.
The sun was exceptionally hot, causing the coarse green felt of Link's tunic to stick to his shoulders with an uncomfortable layer of sweat. Not for the first time that morning, he swiped the back of his hand against his brow, removing the excess of salty perspiration that matted his blond hair against his skin. He shook his head, tossing his locks back and forth in the air to create a small breeze on the back of his neck. This was a most welcome sensation, albeit a brief relief from the staggering tropical heat.
It had been nearly two months since his fateful shipwreck that had landed him on the shores of Koholint and he had not yet adjusted to the climate, so amazingly different from that of Hyrule. He supposed Hylians weren't meant for such high temperatures, being covered in thin, pale skin, but somehow Zelda had adjusted so he knew he would too.
He decided to pause in his labors. For the past few days he had been clearing out a thick area of wild bushes in the middle of the Mabe Village. His intention was to build a small dwelling for himself, so that he would no longer impose on Tarin, who had so generously allowed him to stay in his small one room hut. The work was slow, tedious really. Link had to work alone, as the rest of the citizens of the island were busy carrying about their daily chores. He worked with his sword and a shovel he had purchased from the local town tool shop. Every night, though, when he left the field it seemed that the next day all his work had been undone and he had to start from scratch, clearing away the brittle weeds.
Sitting down in the dirt, Link draped an arm over his knee and squinted in the bright sunlight to examine the surroundings. Before him, to the west he guessed by the angle of the sun, he made out the silhouette of Tarin's cottage. Several chickens were pecking at the dirt around the brown fence that had been built by Tarin himself. More importantly, outside of the entrance, five young women sat in a circle, busily scaling and cutting a basket full of fish with deft hands. Everyone on Koholint worked outside, it seemed. They busily chattered away as they sliced the fresh catch with sharp copper knives.
One of the women sat a good deal apart from the others, nodding vaguely as she gutted her pile of fish, absently throwing the rejected parts into a woven wicker basket. Her long red hair shined in the scalding sunlight, contrasting sharply with her plain green frock. Not that she needed beautiful clothing. She would have been attractive in burlap. She looked up in Link's direction, her gentle blue eyes meeting his. He smiled, waving to her. She smiled back, although she did not move her hands away from her work.
Link found himself suddenly washed over by a wave of contentment. He and Zelda had found it difficult to adjust to each other at first, being that she was living under an assumed name, Marin. But somehow, they had only grown closer as the weeks wore on. It seemed only reasonable. After all, they had more in common than anyone would ever know. They had, of course, tried their hardest to conceal their blossoming love, but even with the most meticulous precautions, it was obvious to certain individuals on the island, especially Tarin, that they meant a great deal to one another.
Suddenly feeling refreshed, Link rose, taking his sword, and returned to the unending task of chopping away at the savage foliage on the land that would become his new home. He heard several of the women laughing. Their laughter was musical to his exceptionally attuned ears. Two months ago, he would never have expected to be so joyful, considering that he might very well spend the rest of his life banished from Hyrule.
It had puzzled him since the moment he awoke in Tarin's house. No one ever left Koholint. Even stranger, no one ever came. The people, until his arrival, had supposed that they were living as the only population in existence. Many of them believed that there was nothing beyond the endless horizon on the beach. Of course, this wasn't true. Link had traveled the entire world, seen wondrous places, most notably Hyrule itself. As far as he could tell, though, he and Zelda were the only outsiders to ever set foot on Koholint, although he alone knew the truth of Zelda's existence, everyone else believing that she had been born on the island.
He supposed the more peculiar part of this isolation was the fact that no one had ever left Koholint. Although he had inquired several times as to the reason why, all he had been told was some mumbo jumbo about a curse that would confine the islanders until such time as it was broken. Being the Hero that he was, he longed to learn more about this curse and perhaps eventually break it. After all, he had broken many curses in the past, in particular those involving a certain wizard who plunged Hyrule into darkness.
"Hello Link!" someone called, shaking Link out of his reverie. He glanced up from his work and saw two figures approaching from the east. The first was Carry, the tall denizen of the Animal Village. By his side was a comparably shorter Human girl named Matilda. It was Matilda who had spoken.
"Hello," he said back, straightening up to greet them.
"How's the work coming?" Matilda asked, kicking a tough bush with her thigh. She regarded him with thoughtful eyes, half hidden under dark bangs.
"Slow," he admitted. "It seems like every time I turn my back, more plants are popping up around me."
Carry had knelt beside one of the bushes, picking off a single crisp leaf. He lifted the feathery green to his nose and sniffed lightly. "Tanglewood," he muttered.
Carry nodded, grunting softly. "It grows very quickly."
"It can spring up overnight if you scatter enough seeds."
Link laughed. "Well, that explains the slow progress I've been making."
"Tracey probably makes some ultimate weed killer you can use," Matilda offered. "Of course, knowing Tracey's work, it'll probably contaminate your entire field here."
"What's going on here?" a boisterous voice interrupted the trio. Tarin appeared from seemingly out of nowhere, striding down the southern path, his ample gut wobbling with every step.
"Hello Tarin," Matilda said, plastering a charming smile on her face.
"You two wouldn't be distracting Link now would you? There's no excuse for shiftlessness, not when you two have your own chores to be doing." Tarin stopped across the weed field from Carry and Matilda.
"We were just passing by," Matilda said easily.
"Of course. Well, you two loafers just get back to your work."
"Yes Tarin," Matilda droned, with an edge of annoyance in her voice. She nodded to Carry and the two of them trod through the grass, the sound of Carry's emerald robes sweeping over the plants serving as their exit music.
"How's the work coming lad?" Tarin asked, moving towards Link. In the past two months, Tarin had taken a rather kindly paternal liking to Link. Link, who didn't remember his real father, had been most grateful for the compassion Tarin had shown. He liked the man, he respected him, although he constantly reminded Link of Princess Amanda and Zelda's uncle Matara. Nevertheless, he could easily see why little Zelda had chosen Tarin as her surrogate father.
"It's coming along," he lied.
"You've been at it for a week already," Tarin clucked. "That tanglewood's been giving you trouble I'll warrant."
Tarin smiled. "You work hard and you're persistent, I admire that."
"Hopefully, I'll be able to move out of your home soon," Link said earnestly.
"There's no rush lad," Tarin told him, holding up his hands. "You're welcome to be our guest for as long as you like. Marin likes having you around, I can see it in her eyes. And I think you like being around her, judging from the way you look at her."
Link blushed a remarkable shade of scarlet. "Marin is unlike any other girl I've ever met," he said truthfully.
"Aye, that she is." Tarin frowned thoughtfully, glancing off to the west where the women were still gutting the never-ending pile of fresh fish. Marin was not among them. "Why don't you take a break? You've been working all day." He tilted his head slightly to one side. "You could take a walk down on the beach. Refresh your mind a bit."
Link smiled. "Perhaps I will," he decided, carefully sheathing his Master Sword into his large brown belt.
"You might run into Marin down there," Tarin added with a twinkle in his eye.
"That would certainly be a welcome surprise," Link said cordially. He nodded once to Tarin and set off on the south road, down to the shore. As he passed the four remaining women, they all huddled together, whispering and throwing him odd glances. All, that is, except for Valerie.
Valerie had been Link's first friend on Koholint. She remained still, perched on her heels, daintily sorting through the fresh catch. Politely, she turned toward Link, offering him a brilliant smile. He smiled back. Suddenly, he remembered that he had taken the Hylian flag she had given him and wrapped it around his forehead, in an awkward attempt to shield his eyes from perspiration. He sheepishly pointed his index finger to his temple. She threw her towhead back, laughing at the sight. Link shrugged. Waving, he turned the corner and found himself passing the town library.
The beach appeared before him. He had formed varied memories about this beach, both joyous and painfully sad. From the yellow sand, he would often sit perfectly still, staring out into the sky and imagining the golden sunrise over Hyrule, a sight he missed more than anything else. At other times, he would walk with Zelda, neither of them saying much, just strolling across the lane, enjoying each other's company. The one memory however, that stood out in his mind above all others was the night he had discovered Zelda. Vividly, he recalled the inky blackness that had enveloped the town. Panicked calls of "Marin!" had erupted across the landscape. Against his better judgment, Link had ventured out onto the shore and found her, knee deep in water, moving towards the horizon. He remembered pulling her back to shore, seeing the wind toss her red hair away, revealing her pointed ears. More than anything, however, he recalled the joy of holding her in his arms for the first time. Not a stranger, but the lost love of his childhood.
There was a knock at the door. Richard froze, his pen poised above the crumpled sheet of parchment on his desk. He sat perfectly still, waiting to hear if the knock would come again. Not a sound came from behind the door. He felt his pulse throbbing in his throat, but he didn't dare swallow. The knock came again, three steady beats against the wooden door of the villa.
"Who's there?" he whispered, hoping his voice wouldn't be heard and the person on the other side of the door would go away. No such luck. The knocking came again. Slowly, Richard rose from his seat. He had become skilled at rising without letting the wooden joints of the chair creek, despite their age.
Walking with careful footsteps, he made his way across the floor and to the door. The knocker was pounding again, with increasing impatience at his snail speed. Richard had always been reluctant to answer knocking on his door. After all, no one ever came to visit him unless they wanted to have it out with him. Recently, however, he had been increasingly nervous about opening the door, out of fear that Ganondorf Dragmire, or some other worser creature defying description loomed on the other side.
Placing his hand on the cool golden doorknob, Richard took a deep breath. As he released a stream of air from his lips, he turned the handle and yanked the door open quickly. Standing on the other side of the door was a lanky man with dirty blond hair and hazel eyes, wide with surprise at Richard's abruptness. "Richard?" he asked.
Richard's face broke out into a broad smile. "Kurt? What in the world are you doing here?"
Kurt laughed. "I came by to see you of course."
"Come on in," Richard said, pulling the door open farther. Kurt stepped inside the villa, looking around in every direction. "Forgive me, I wasn't expecting anyone."
"You never do," Kurt said grinning. He clapped Richard on the back. "How have you been?" he asked.
"Business as usual," Richard lied. In all honesty, he had had next to no contact with the rest of the island in almost a month. Not since that embarrassing incident with the monster from beyond that had trashed his house. "But what about you? No one's seen or heard from you in almost three years!"
"Give me the quiet life," Kurt shrugged.
"I'll never understand why you decided to move to Tal Tal Heights. Doesn't it get lonely up there? The silence would drive me mad."
"You don't know the meaning of the word," Kurt countered. "You always have the sound of your own voice to listen to." He laughed, sitting down on Richard's bed. "I find life in the mountains to be peaceful. It suits me well."
"I can see that," Richard said sitting back down in his chair, flopping his arms over the back to face Kurt. "So what brings you back down here to civilization?"
"I heard someone washed up on the shore," Kurt replied, lacing his fingers and resting his elbows on his knees. "Is it true?"
"Amazingly enough, it is true. I've seen the outsider myself. Goes by the name of Link. Got a chip off his shoulder, but he doesn't appear to be criminally insane."
"Where does he come from?" Kurt asked, lifting his eyebrows.
"From what I've learned, he comes from a place called Hyrule."
"I always believed that there were no other islands besides Koholint," Kurt muttered.
"No, this Hyrule place isn't an island," Richard corrected him. "This Link brought with him a map of an entire continent, of which Hyrule is a kingdom. There are other lands. Islands called things like Catalan and Risa. And landmasses connected to Hyrule, like Beigor and," he closed his eyes to recall the few precious glances he had had of the map, "Calatia."
"I can't imagine the likes." Kurt shook his head. "I suppose it was egocentric of us to believe that we were the only life forms in a never ending sea."
"Speak for yourself. I never believed such a thing for a second."
"Come on Richard, you know you did. You're just trying to save face. It's the old 'I-knew-it-all-along' syndrome. But you can't fool me."
Richard laughed. "Maybe," he admitted. "I'll tell you though, Link looks nothing Human."
"Yeah, he's got these long pointed ears. He looked a little like a bat."
"A bat? He's got leathery wings and the whole ordeal?"
"Well," Richard cringed, "no wings. Just the pointed ears."
"What else can you tell me about him?" Kurt asked curiously.
Richard frowned. "You're fishing," he muttered. "Why all this interest in the outsider?"
"There's no better source of information about people on this island than you Richard," Kurt gushed, slapping his puce slacks. "I want to know a bit about the fellow before I meet him."
"Oh, you intend to visit the village?"
"How often do I come down from the mountains?"
Richard shook his head. "Nowhere near often enough. Well, if you do go to the village…"
"When I go to the village," Kurt interrupted him.
"Right. When you go to the village, I trust you'll be looking for Link?"
"I'm anxious to meet bat boy."
"Well," Richard chuckled, "he's easy to spot. Here's the strangest thing. He carries a sword with him where ever he goes."
"That's not all strange," Kurt replied. "Many of the villagers arm themselves when they go out."
"I'm talking twenty four hours a day, every day. The sword's like a security blanket. And that's not the strangest part."
"There's more?" Kurt asked in mock horror.
"Yeah." Richard turned to his desk, searching for a blank page of paper. Finding one at the very bottom of the pile, and only after he had managed to throw all the others onto the floor, he reached for his pen and drew out the shape of the Triforce. "Everything he owns has this symbol on it." He passed the page to Kurt.
Kurt looked at the shape, turning the paper over in his hands to examine it from all angles. "Does it mean anything?"
"I'm sure it does, I just haven't figured that part out yet." Richard frowned. "A few days after he was found on the beach, I acquired a shield that washed up on the sand with the same symbol."
"You'll figure it out," Kurt said confidently, folding the page and tucking it under the collar flap of his blue tunic. "There's no secret you can't uncover. Thanks for the information." Kurt rose and started toward the door.
"He spends a lot of time with Marin," Richard blurted out.
Kurt froze, his hand just reaching out for the door. "Marin?" he asked quietly, lowering his arm.
Richard nodded. "Over the last month or so, I haven't seen him without her for more than a few hours a time."
Turning back to face Richard, Kurt frowned. "I've thought about her a lot. Practically every day."
"I thought she might be your reason for returning to civilization. If you can call the Mabe Village civilization."
"I suppose my desire to meet this stranger was a bit of a pretense." Kurt's square shoulders sagged slightly. "I've missed her so much. Has she missed me?"
"She did at first," Richard said truthfully. "The month after your departure for heights on high she was even more surly that usual." He held up his hands apologetically when Kurt flashed him an angry glance.
"Has she changed?" Kurt asked.
"Not much. She's still the same old Marin. Older of course."
"Prettier too I'll warrant," Kurt sighed. "Does she speak about me?"
"I honestly don't know. The majority of our conversations consist of her shouting insults over her shoulder as I chase her through the prairie."
"Does she still play her ocarina at night up in the foothills?"
Richard scowled. "Every single night, up until a few weeks ago. It was amazingly shocking one night when I didn't hear that dreadful echoing. I suppose I had grown accustomed to it."
"A few weeks ago. Meaning when…"
"When Link arrived, yes."
"What does Tarin think of this stranger?" Kurt asked desperately.
"I won't lie to you," Richard said gently. "He likes Link. He likes Link a lot. Thinks he's good for Marin. Thinks he's good for the whole island."
"I don't like Link out of principle. He defies my every attempt to snoop around the village."
"Well, at least I have one ally. What about the other villagers?"
"Most people seem to like him. Valerie can't stop singing his praises. And pretty much everyone in the Animal Village seems to have taken to him."
Kurt looked forlorn. "And Marin?" he whispered.
Richard shook his head. "There are some secrets even I can't crack. Yet." He shrugged. "They spend a lot of time together, but I'll admit I don't know if that means anything. You know Marin. She's always been so fascinated with what's beyond the sea. She'd rather live in her own fantasy world that live in the reality of Koholint daily life."
"I can't stand the thought of her…" Kurt trailed off. "I'm sounding ridiculous. I left after all, I shouldn't have expected her to wait for me."
"You didn't leave because of her," Richard told him firmly.
"In a way I did. I loved her so much, just seeing her drove me wild. I couldn't stand having her so close, but not being able to have her."
"Things have changed now," Richard offered hopefully. "She's older, wiser, even more bold, if that's possible for Marin. There's always a chance of going back in time to fix old mistakes."
"Maybe," Kurt said reaching for the doorknob. "But if not…"
"Don't worry about 'if not' right now." Richard rose courteously. "Do come by again before you leave for the mountains again, if that's what you intend to do."
"Of course I will," Kurt promised. "After all," he pushed the door open and stepped outside, "who else can I come to for information about everyone living on the island?" He closed the door behind him.
She stared at the pearly white surface of the shell, concentrating as hard as she could. Her blue eyes narrowed until nearly all the sunlight had been squinted out, but he didn't dare release the tension. With all the power that was in her, which felt considerably less than what was actually there, she imagined the shell lifting off of Link's hand and floating into hers. It wasn't moving. Sighing, she released the tension, falling back onto her heels. "I'm just not accomplishing anything," she said with resignation.
"Don't give up already," Link urged.
Zelda shook her head. "I just can't perform telekinesis," she lamented. "It's not in me."
"You can perform telekinesis," Link replied, falling gently down into the sand. "All Hylians are capable of it. It's really very simple."
"I don't know Link." She frowned. "I think that part of my brain atrophied a long time ago."
Link turned his gaze down to the shell resting on his palm. Concentrating hard, he mentally lifted it into the air. It hovered over his hand for a moment, but soon began to drift to Zelda. She reached out her fingers and watched as Link carefully lowered it into her hand. "You see?" Link asked.
"Show off," she muttered, smiling slightly. Playfully, she threw the shell back at Link's head. He mentally stopped it in mid-air, right before it would have hit his head. Using the powers of his mind, he lowered it back onto his palm. "Tell me more about my sister," Zelda said, folding her hands in her lap.
"Move the shell first, then I'll tell you more."
She wrinkled her nose. "It's too hard."
"Try," he urged.
"Were the wise men this obnoxious when they trained you?" she inquired.
Link shook his head. "I didn't spend much time with the wise men. They were a little busy working with Tress."
"The Hero of Destiny. Remember what I told you? There are three Hylian heroes. The Hero of Time…"
"Right. The Hero of Destiny."
"And the Hero of Lore."
"Who's the Hero of Lore?"
He shrugged in embarrassment. "I don't know." Glancing down at the shell on his palm, he frowned. "Just make it hover a little bit. You could do it before."
Rolling her eyes, she stared down at the shell again. This time, she managed to force it up a centimeter or so. It floated in the air a little while then dropped back into Link's hand. Zelda smiled triumphantly. "There's your shell. Now tell me more about Amanda."
Link grinned. Stiffly, he leaned back on his elbows, looking out at the rolling tide a few paces away. The beach was a sacred place for them. Most of the time, it was the only place they could go to be alone. Indeed, no one lived on the beach, save for an old merchant named Sale. Over the last month, Zelda and Link had idled away long hours alone on the golden sands. Only recently, Link had begun trying to train Zelda in the ancient Hylian ways. She had been slow to cooperate, but she was a quick learner, especially when he rewarded her studies with stories about what had happened in Hyrule since she had been shipwrecked.
"I don't know how much more I can tell you about Amanda." Amanda, Zelda's sister, had become her favorite subject to hear about. Link had told Zelda all about Amanda's elaborate marriage to Prince Artem Barr of Catalan, a ceremony which he had attended. He had told horror stories about Amanda's two year old daughter, just entering a more curious stage of life. He had even told her irrelevant stories, such as one time when Amanda had threatened to tar and feather him. Still, she couldn't get enough of his stories.
"Tell me about the wedding again," she demanded.
Link shook his head. "The story isn't going to change." He frowned thoughtfully. "I tell you an awful lot of stories. You never tell me any."
"I don't have any stories to tell," she replied.
"That can't be true. You've been living on this island for over half of your lifetime. Certainly there must be something interesting that's happened in the course of that time."
"Not really," she replied, shaking her head.
"Come on, you must have done something besides toss Richard into the river a dozen times."
She frowned. "I once tossed Elinor in too. But that was a different set of circumstances."
He laughed appreciatively. "Nothing else? Not ever? No mystery, no intrigue?"
"No, truthfully. No mystery, just berry picking, basket weaving, and shell gathering."
There was a rustling sound in the palm trees behind them. Simultaneously, Link and Zelda turned around, looking up into the trees. There was nothing there, of course, but they heard the hollow sound of an owl hooting. "Ezri?" Link whispered, calling out the name of Carry's beloved pet owl.
"I don't see him," Zelda murmured, rising to her feet.
"But you hear that too," Link responded, standing beside her. "I'm not going crazy."
"The hooting? Yeah, I hear it all right." Slowly, she started moving towards the trees. Link followed behind her. "Maybe we just imagined it."
"No, that's not possible. We have different brains."
"Oh, right." Link stopped, snapping his fingers. "Telepathy!" he cried. "That's the next lesson!"
"Shhh!" Zelda pressed her index finger to her lips.
"Oh, right," Link blushed sheepishly.
"How did you ever defeat Ganon?" she asked sarcastically.
"I was quieter then," he shot back.
Suddenly, out the trees came a rich, velvety voice. "So you are the lad who owns the sword," it whispered.
Link and Zelda exchanged a look of confusion. Link glanced over his shoulder where he had left his sword, point down, in the sand. He looked back up at the trees, straining his eyes to find the source of the strange voice. "Now I understand why the monsters are starting to act so violently," the soft tone continued. "A courageous lad has come to wake the Windfish."
Zelda stared wide-eyed at the trees. Glancing at Link out of the corner of her eyes, she shrugged, telling him she understood none of this. Carefully, she tip toed forward another few paces. Link followed behind, taking one of her hands with his. "It is said that you cannot leave the island unless you wake the Windfish," the stranger explained. "You should now go north, to the Mysterious Forest. I will wait for you there."
The hollow hooting noise came again and to the amazement of both Hylians, a feathery form, indistinguishable, but indeed feathery, exploded out of the palms, disappearing behind a low cloud. Zelda blinked. "Did an owl just talk to us?"
"Did an owl just give us orders?" Link countered, shrugging helplessly. Slowly, he turned around, releasing Zelda's hand, and walked back to the sword.
Zelda ran after him. "What are we supposed to do?"
"Go to the Mysterious Forest I guess," Link said, pulling his blade out of the sand and sheathing it in his belt.
"You're just going to blindly walk into the forest because a voice in a tree tells you to?"
"Stranger things have happened to me," he muttered.
"I'm going with you," she said firmly.
"We shouldn't go now. It's best to go at night when fewer people will see us."
She frowned. "At night when unearthly creatures are roaming through the trees."
"Are you afraid?" he challenged her with an impish grin.
"Of course not!" she replied indignantly.
"Then we'll leave tonight, after Tarin's fallen asleep. Something tells me you sneak out of bed far more often than you're letting on Marin." He paused. "Be sure to bring your bow."
"I keep one hidden under the signpost before the forest," she admitted.
He laughed. "Come on, we'd better get back to the village before anyone notices we've been gone together again. The last thing we want is Richard following us tonight."
She nodded. "I'm going to go to the library to research this Windfish story."
"Do you think you'll find anything? I thought you had the whole library memorized."
Zelda shrugged, laughing appreciably. "I have to try. There's always the chance I've missed something. Anyway, the library's our best bet."
Carry sat with his back against his favorite tree. The day was hot and he was grateful for the refreshingly cool feeling of the shade. He stared down at his toes, each one accented by a brown claw. Thoughtfully, he wiggled them, each one in sequence, as though he were playing a musical instrument.
"Just look at it Carry," Matilda breathed dreamily. She was sprawled out on the grass, lying on her stomach and looking at a map spread out in front of her, her eyes greedily soaking in every curve and line. It was an old map that Link had given her, outlining the lands of the realm, all far removed from Koholint.
"It's a map," he muttered, "I see plenty. I make them, remember?"
"You don't make them like this," she replied, tracing her finger a long the path of a dark blue line, a river and cut and bended across the entire continent. "All those worlds out there and they have no idea that we exist."
"You could say we didn't know about them," Carry supplied thoughtfully, looking up to catch some light that had seeped through the thick canopy of trees.
"We do now," Matilda muttered. "I want them all." She sighed, rolling over onto her back and letting the sun caress her face.
"If you had them all, what would you do with them?" he asked, tilting his head to a slight angle.
"Explore them. Get to know them intimately. Conquer them."
"That wouldn't be very nice."
"I don't mean in the literal sense. Conquer them, meaning, climb their mountains, forge their streams."
"Have adventures, I understand now." He leaned over slightly, glancing at the map. "Which one would you start with?"
Matilda rolled back onto her stomach. Closing her eyes, she allowed her finger to hover over the page for a moment before slamming it down. She opened her eyes, reading the name of the country she had landed on aloud. "Sutherland."
"Has Link been there?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I've never asked him." Smiling, she rested her chin in her palms. "Sutherland will be the first place I'll explore."
"How are you going to get there? You can't even leave the island."
"I will leave the island someday," she said, sitting up suddenly. "And you'll come with me. We'll go exploring together."
"There's got to be a way. If you can get on, you have to get off."
"Tarin says there's a curse on the island and so we can't leave."
"Tarin also said that there was no life outside of Koholint. Well we know he's wrong now."
Carry frowned, leaning back against the tree. He closed his eyes, trying to put his thoughts into words. "There is a curse," he said slowly. "I've gone places with Ezri, dark places, scary places." He waved his hand in the air, floundering for words. "Places like Tail Cave."
"The dungeon of the Nightmare," Matilda said, her smile never fading.
"Well," he admitted sheepishly. "We never saw a Nightmare."
"Oh, they exist Carry, I promise you that." Matilda swung her legs out in front of her, hugging them to her chest. "But they're not immortal ghosts, they're made of flesh and blood and bone, just like us."
"How do you know?"
Matilda leaned forward. "I swiped a book from the library all about the Nightmares. I didn't get much time to read it, but I hid it someplace to look at later."
"That wasn't very nice of you," Carry admonished her.
"Maybe not, but everyone will be thanking me when I break the curse of the Nightmares and open up a pathway in the sea."
"What is the curse of the Nightmares?"
"I haven't figured that part out yet. But I will, and you're going to help me."
"Me? Why me?"
"Because," Matilda started slowly, "you've been to the dungeons of the Nightmares, you know the way."
"I was never trying to cause trouble."
"No, but you can leave that part to me. I'll figure out what we're supposed to do and you'll guide us through the lairs."
"I don't think that's a very good idea," Carry warned wearily.
"Will you relax? I know what I'm talking about."
"Sounds a little quick to me."
"This is not a spontaneous decision," Matilda stressed. "A lot of daydreaming went into it."
"That doesn't make me feel any better."
"You'll see soon enough."
Carry's frown only deepened. "You're saying that you want me to help you defeat the Nightmares. That's not easy. That's not safe."
"Look, I can change your mind."
"Tonight, after sunset, meet me by the Mabe Village well. We'll go into the Mysterious Forest where I hid the library book and I'll show you exactly what it says."
"After sunset?" Carry questioned. "That's when the demons come out. It won't be safe."
"Carry, you don't really still believe in the monsters do you?" She shook her head. "Just kid stories, fabrications created to keep children in bed at night."
"Tarin believes in the monsters," Carry reflected.
"I think we've already established that we don't have to believe everything Tarin says. Honestly Carry, sometimes you think with the mind of a child."
"Maybe," he nodded, "but there are a lot of kids who are smarter than adults. Are you sure about this?"
Matilda sighed. "Look, if you don't want to come with me, I won't force you. I understand if you're scared, but Carry, think about the reward. I'm not just talking about the chance to leave the island and create maps of new worlds. There are other kinds of rewards waiting for us, waiting for you."
"Adventure!" she said with excitement. "Danger, intrigue, and most importantly, magic. I know how much you used to love to read the picture books about magic and mysticism."
He smiled. It was true enough. "Will there be magic?"
"Carry, there's no way to know what's in store if you join me on this quest to break the curse, but I can easily promise you that there will be magic involved."
"All right," he consented. "I'll go with you to the forest tonight. But that doesn't mean I'll agree to everything else."
"Fair enough," she nodded. Folding up the map, she stood. "We'll meet at the well tonight after sunset." She turned to start walking off, but suddenly stopped, glancing back over her shoulder, "Oh and Carry, don't let anyone see you."
"We don't want people following us: The fewer people who know what we're up to, the better. Just imagine what Richard would say if he caught us."
"Fine," he agreed. She flashed a smile at him and sauntered off, heading no doubt for the path back to the Mabe Village. Carry sighed, wriggling his shoulder blades against the tree bark to scratch an itch on his back. Ezri descended out of the sky. Smiling, Carry extended his arm, allowing his beloved owl to perch. He tenderly ran his knuckles forward and back on the white, downy feathers covering the bird's chest.
Ezri hooted in contentment, turning his chin up to give Carry more to pet. Carry ran his fingers parallel to the feathers on Ezri's head, careful not to poke him with his sharp claws. "We're going out tonight," he whispered to his pet. Ezri almost seemed to look at Carry, a gaze of concern emitted from his amber eyes. "I know. I know."
Zelda dropped another book down onto the rapidly growing pile of discarded books. Kneading her forehead for a few moments, she closed her eyes, breathing in the sweet pine scent of the wooden planks that built the library. It was unusually peaceful today, only the sound of two little boys outside to disturb the quiet. Reluctantly, she opened her eyes, abandoning the restful black void and picking up another waterlogged volume.
This book was one she had not read in a long time. As she turned open the maroon leather cover, she tried to remember what was contained in this particular book. The faded gold letters that spelled out the title read, 'Dragon's Honor.' She smiled, even while knowing that the book contained no information what so ever about the mysterious Windfish. This was a work of fiction, one of her childhood favorites. Despite the lateness in the day, she found herself flipping through the pages, exploring the colorful and vibrant drawings of dragons, the characters of the story.
After taking a moment to admire one particular dragon, a purple and yellow creature named Nubya that spouted bright orange flames from her gaping jaw, she closed the book, tossing it gently aside. The next book she pulled off the shelf was of no more help. Nor was the next one, or the next one. How elusive this Windfish myth seemed suddenly. Zelda sat down on a wooden crate, her legs ankle deep in rejected books. She tried to recall all the stories that she had heard of the Windfish as a child, but for some reason, she just recalled ghost stories about the Nightmares. From what she remembered, they were the guardians of the island, eight powerful monsters that kept the people from sailing out past the farthest visible rocks of the ocean. But how? What sort of magic or instrument was it that kept the island surrounded by an invisible barrier that the Nightmares controlled?
She shook her head, picking up another book and flipping through several pages of text too faded and too small to be read. Finally, she came to an illustration. On the page were eight golden instruments, each the size of a thimble. The only writing on the picture was a fancy scribbling that seemed to read 'Instruments of the Sirens." Sirens? Zelda put the book carefully back on the shelf, marking in her mind its exact location.
What were Sirens? She wondered to herself, standing up and walking across the room to another series of bookshelves, as of yet untouched by her uncertain hands. Chewing on her index finger, she scanned the titles of the books, wondering if any of them might provide her with a reasonable answer to such a simple question. For no apparent reason, she pulled a thin, blue-bound book, so old that the title had long ago flaked off the side, leaving only a shallow indent of the words.
Flipping furiously through the pages, Zelda discovered that although she had intended to read a book of mythological creatures, she had ended up with a book of strange poetry. She slowed down, stopping at first to read the titles of some of the poems, but soon greedily pouring over the words, drinking in beautiful phrases and metaphors.
"Surrounded by your light am I, your hair the net that pulls me close," she read aloud, her breath oozing out of her chest with each word. "Like the ancient trees, your arms intertwine with mine and we stand beneath the sunset…"
"On an event horizon between night and day," someone finished the phrase. Zelda's eyes shot up from the book. She spun around to face the doorway and felt her heart leap into her throat. Leaning against the wooden doorframe, one arm invisible behind the frame and the other against his side, was Kurt.
"Kurt," she whispered, closing the book and numbly returning it to the shelf.
"That was always my favorite," he muttered, pushing away from the door and walking inside. The outside light died as the door slammed shut and Zelda got a better look at him. He had barely changed in the three years since he had left the village. Perhaps a little thinner around the face, and paler all things told, but still remarkably handsome with his dirty blond hair and his hazel eyes.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, fighting not to stutter.
"Not quite the welcome I was hoping for," he mused, stopping a few feet before her, "but it'll do."
She blushed crimson. "I'm sorry," she muttered, "this was just so…"
"Unexpected?" he finished for her. "Well, as I've always said, what am I if not spontaneous?" He grinned. "Life is too boring when you see everything coming."
"You always said that."
Kurt spread his arms open. "Do I warrant a hug from the most beautiful girl on the island?" he asked innocently.
"Oh," she said, flustered. Awkwardly, she took a few shaky steps forward, into Kurt's reach. He hugged her, though she remained stiff as a board, not returning his embrace. After a moment, she pulled back, plastering a smile on her face. "When did you arrive in the village?"
"Pretty much now," he admitted. "You were the first and only person I wanted to see of course."
He leaned his head to one side, catching Zelda's eyes. "Come on Marin, what's the matter?"
"Nothing. It's just that…well…seeing you again, now, it's so…"
"Yes." She frowned. "You left without even saying goodbye."
"Yeah," he shuffled his feet, dropping his eyes. "I know. I'm not exactly one for big goodbyes."
"You hurt me, a lot."
"I didn't mean to. I guess I just wanted to get out of the village as quickly as possible. I thought it was for the best."
"You should have told me you were leaving."
"Why?" he asked. "Would you have come with me?" He looked up at her, but now she averted her gaze. "Yeah. I knew you wouldn't. You love Tarin too much. And he doesn't like me."
"He didn't like you."
"Do you think he's changed?"
Kurt sighed. "I thought about you a lot. Every night, you were the last thought in my mind. I know it doesn't mean much, but I sent for you. Every night, in different ways, in different places I sent for you. Sometimes I walked right back into the village and demanded that Tarin let me marry you, sometimes I sent word in secret for you to meet me in the forest so that we could run away together. Dozens of different ways, I sent for you."
"You just never did it for real."
"No," he said, "I didn't."
"I wish you had."
"Would you have come with me?" He held up his hand. "Please, spare my pride, don't answer. I know you wouldn't have. You've always been a good daughter." He gazed fondly at her once more. "You're so beautiful. Even more so than in my fantasies."
"Kurt," she stopped him. "Please don't expect to just come here now and pick up where we left off."
"Oh, no, I don't expect that at all." He grinned. "I want to start over again; a clean slate. This time, we can do things right for a change. We'll make Tarin see that I'm really a respectable gentleman. There's nothing more wonderful than a new love. That's what we'll have, that's what…"
The door to the library swung open. "Marin, I…" Link stopped in the doorway, his blue eyes flashing first from the girl to the strange man.
"Link," she cried, almost with relief. She walked across the floor, her footsteps seeming unnaturally loud in the awkward silence.
"I don't believe I know you," Link murmured, looking at Kurt with narrowed eyes.
"Link, this is Kurt, Kurt Mal. Kurt, this is Link."
"You're not from around here," Kurt said suspiciously eyeing Link's long pointed ears, just barely sticking out from under his green cap.
"No," Link said icily.
"Link is from the outside," she explained, touching his forearm with her slender fingers. "You see now, I was right. There is a world beyond the horizon."
Kurt forced a smile. "I'm glad to hear it Marin," he said bitingly, unable to take his eyes off of the Hylian.
"Where are you from?" Link asked with equal warmth.
"I live up in the mountains," Kurt replied. "I have a home in Tal Tal Heights. I moved up there about three years ago. Just couldn't stand the village life."
"What brings you back down here then?"
Kurt shrugged. "A man can only go so many years without seeing another human face. I came to see my friends, I came to visit Marin."
"How long do you mean to stay?"
"I'm uncertain," Kurt said, looking directly at Marin now. "It depends on many things. But I really do want to catch up with some other friends." He walked forward, stopping in front of Link and Marin. "I hope we can continue this conversation some other time Marin." He and Link seemed to circle each other, sizing each other up, but finally, Kurt maneuvered his way out of the library, the door slamming shut behind him.
Zelda released a rush of air out of her lungs. "What was that about?" she asked, turning on Link.
"What was what about?"
"You two alpha males were about to bite each others heads off."
"I don't know what you're talking about. How come you've never mentioned this Kurt fellow before?"
"He didn't seem important," she said breezily walking over to the messy pile of books, which she began to organize back onto the shelves.
"Did you find anything?" he asked, coming to her side to help her with the books.
"Nothing." She frowned, pausing with two books in each hand. "I was certain I once saw a book about the Nightmares, but for the life of me I can't find it."
"Ancient ghost story monsters. I thought there might be a connection between the Windfish and the Nightmares."
"Maybe someone's checked it out," Link offered.
"I doubt it," she resumed her task. "No one ever checks books out of here. There isn't even a librarian anymore. The art of reading has died with most of the people of Koholint." There was a lamentation in her voice.
"Are we still going to the forest tonight?" he asked, cramming the last of the books up onto the shelf.
"Of course. Why wouldn't we?"
"I thought you might want to spend time with Kurt." He said the stranger's name as though it were unpleasant in his mouth.
"Link, you're jealous."
"Is there anything to be jealous of?" he countered, immediately sorry for the tone of voice he used.
She frowned, sitting down on the wooden crate. "Once, when I was a completely different person, there was…something. But there's nothing now, I promise you that much."
He searched her eyes, pleadingly. "Then this is the real thing?" he asked, touching her hand gently with his.
"Always," she promised, wrapping her fingers around his.
Valerie took a deep breath. Drawing her fingers into a fist, she tapped her knuckles gently on the doorframe, half hoping her knocking wouldn't be heard. It was of course. Molly had the ears of a bloodhound. "Come in," her gentle voice wafted out from the cabin.
Pushing aside a dried animal hide, Valerie ducked into the old witch's hut. The inside of the house had changed a great deal since Valerie had last seen it. Then, the walls had been impaled by various shards of a shattered cauldron. The bed had been overturned, the stuffing strewn about the floor and a thick white substance, glittering with iridescent pink and green shades had been splashed across the cracked remains of a table. Since then, of course, Molly had fixed up the place. A brand new copper cauldron rested neatly on a willow wood table. The walls had been patched up and Molly's old bed had been repaired and fitted with a new straw mattress.
"Valerie," the old woman said from her seat by a small, contained fire in the center of the room. "This is a pleasant surprise."
"I hope I'm not bothering you Molly," the girl said apologetically, pushing the blond fringe of her hair behind her ears.
"No, you could never bother me." Molly's wrinkled face broke into a broad smile. "It's not often I get visitors anyway. Especially you."
"I'm sorry," Valerie said, lowering her gaze. "I should visit more often."
"I'm not looking for an apology dear. What brings you my way?"
Valerie turned away from Molly, walking over to the new table. She ran her fingers along the rim of the cauldron before her attention was drawn away by a thin sound, no louder than tinkle of a bell. Resting beside the cauldron was a thick glass jar, sealed with a cork. Inside the jar was a small fairy, no larger than the palm of Valerie's hand. She had bright red eyes and equally stunning crimson hair. Clothed in only a rose petal shift, she sat on the bottom of the jar, seemingly in meditation.
"Hello Eve," Valerie muttered. She brought her face close to the jar for a moment, examining the delicate, spider web-like wings mounted on the fairy's back.
"She is beautiful, isn't she?" Molly asked with pride.
Valerie straightened out, glancing once more at Eve's wings before turning back to Molly. "I don't understand why you kept her. She's so dangerous."
Molly shook her head. "She's not dangerous, she just has the potential to be dangerous. We all do. It would be wrong to reject someone just because they had the potential to be evil. If we did that, no one would ever talk to one another."
"I suppose you're right," Valerie conceded. "But do you really think everyone has the potential to be evil?
"Of course I do. I wouldn't have said so if I didn't believe it."
"Good point." Valerie folded her hands behind her back. "That's a rather negative view though."
"Valerie, something tells me you didn't come here to discuss the human potential for evil." Molly pointed her bamboo cane in Valerie's direction. "You're either fishing for something, or you're stalling for time because there's something you don't want to talk about. Don't think I didn't notice how softly you knocked on my door."
"You're right, of course." Valerie knelt on the floor, before Molly's feet. Resting her hands in her lap, she looked down at the floor. "Do you remember Kurt?" she asked.
Molly's smile faded. "Yes," she said sharply. "All too well."
"He's come back from the mountains."
"Has he now? Has Tarin chased him out of the Mabe Village yet?"
Valerie shook her head, smiling despite herself. "I don't think Tarin knows he's back. No one really knows, except me. I saw him going into the library to find Marin, I think."
"Of course he was looking for her," Molly said with a scowl. "Why has he come back? Don't tell me he wants to marry her. You would think he had learned from the last time he asked Tarin."
"I don't know why he came back," Valerie started slowly. "But I have a bad feeling about his intentions."
"I would hate to see him come between Marin and that Link boy. Something tells me they're right for each other, even if they don't know it yet."
"I think somewhere they do. But Kurt is going to be a problem."
"Why? Do you think he intends to destroy whatever they have together?"
"I don't think that's his primary intention." Valerie sighed. "I can't put into words what I'm thinking."
"You're having a premonition about him?" Molly couldn't hide her amusement.
Valerie shrugged. "I've had them before."
"Yes, I've heard Richard teasing you about them."
"I don't care about what Richard says. Call them premonitions, call them lucky guesses, whatever they are, they're generally right."
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"Well, that's why I came to you," Valerie replied.
"To me? What do you want me to do about it?"
"You have spells," she started slowly.
"I wouldn't be much of a witch if I didn't have spells," Molly deadpanned. "But what do my spells have to do with your premonitions?"
"You have a spell that you can use to judge a person's intentions," Valerie responded quickly. "You could do that spell to find out if I'm right about Kurt."
Molly sighed. "Oh Valerie, I don't know. The thing about spells is that they take away some of the most important elements of life."
"Experience for one thing. Some things are better left to time."
"I can't just sit and wait to see if Kurt does something destructive."
"That isn't in anyone's nature. Unfortunately, most people don't suffer from premonitions the way you do."
"So will you do the spell for me?"
Molly bit her lower lip, thinking for a long moment. "If I do," she began slowly, "and I find our you're right, what do you intend to do?"
"I don't know. I suppose it would be a foolish idea to tell Marin or Link about it."
"Very foolish," Molly affirmed.
"I suppose I'll act on my own then," Valerie decided.
"And what will you do?"
"I haven't figured that part out yet."
"Very well," Molly nodded. "I'll do the spell for you. Please, hand me Eve's jar."
Valerie stood up, walking back to the table. Eve was looking up at her with wide, curious eyes. Feeling only slightly awkward, Valerie picked up the jar and gently delivered it into Molly's hand. "Here's you're chance to do some good," Valerie muttered to the fairy, even though she knew the glass was too thick for her voice to be heard through.
Molly pulled a strand of sage out of her hair and began to pop the crackled plant into several small pieces. She paused in her work, holding up a crooked finger. "Now remember, it's wisest if you don't tell anyone what I learn for you. Life is about experience and even if your premonitions rob you of this quality, you needn't rob anyone else."
"I'll try my best," Valerie promised, sitting back down on the floor. Silently, she wondered how she would act if her instincts were proven true. As she watched Molly prepare to cast her spell, she wondered if she had felt so uneasy the last time Kurt had been in the Mabe Village, three years before Link's arrival, when he had seduced Marin almost to the point of disobeying Tarin and leaving the settled part of the island. What would have happened if she had followed Kurt? Valerie shuddered at the possibilities.
The thin chirping of a chorus of crickets swelled to a roar as the two Hylians walked silently across the grassy knoll of the Mabe Village. It was late, nearly midnight judging from the brightness of the stars. A single, solitary shooting star arched slowly overhead, taking its nightly path across the Koholint sky toward the horizon. All around them, the citizens of the Mabe Village slept, leaving enough silence to hear the crickets, so ignored during the day.
They curved across the grass, the padding of their footsteps as quiet as possible. It was dangerous to be out and about at night, so everyone had been told. Legends of demons and monsters roaming across the island kept everyone locked inside at this hour, yet two adventurous people now dared to move through the village and towards a solid wall of trees, nearing the entrance of the Mysterious Forest.
Neither of them spoke, but rather enjoyed a companionable silence. Link trudged along, lugging his sword on his back and fussing with the ties on his leather gauntlets. Zelda, on the other hand, walked erect, with an empty quiver strapped to her back. She held a handful of her sea foam green dress in one hand, her other hand brushing against Link's shoulder as she steered him towards the small gap in the trees, which would allow them access to the forest. A cold breeze blew across the plain, making her shiver. Link, noticing this, draped his arm over her shoulder. She smiled, leaning her cheek against his hand for a moment before shrugging away from him to trot over to a wooden signpost.
"Mysterious Forest," she read aloud. "It's a little bit mysterious."
Link smirked. "Whoever wrote that sure had a sense of humor," he muttered watching as Zelda ducked behind some shrubs, digging around for her bow. Drawing his sword, he began to cut away at a wild crop of tanglewood in the middle of the road. The low hooting noise that they had heard on the beach suddenly echoed across the darkness. Zelda's head rose immediately from the shrub. "It's back again," Link whispered, returning his sword to its sheath.
"I've been thinking about it all day," she muttered, crawling out of the bushes with her bow and a handful of arrows, which she shoved into her quiver. "It can't possibly be Ezri. Owls can't talk."
"Actually…" Link started, but stopped, realizing that he was supposed to hold his peace.
"It must be some sort of spirit, manifesting itself in the form of an owl."
"I didn't know you believed in such things," Link said, pushing aside a branch so Zelda could enter the forest.
"You'd be surprised what I've seen in these woods at night."
"I thought Tarin forbid you to wander out here alone at night," Link muttered, jogging to catch up.
She turned over her shoulder to offer a mischievous smile. Though she opened her mouth to say something, she was suddenly interrupted by a hollow voice that echoed through the trees. "Ho brave ones, on your quest to wake the dreamer! Welcome to the Mysterious Wood! Much of mystery you will find on this uncharted Koholint Island! I'm afraid you may find it a trifle difficult to leave the island while the Windfish naps."
Zelda moved back to Link's side, ready to say something, but the voice continued. "By the by, have you ever visited the Tail Cave, which is south of the village? Go there with the key you find in this forest…the Windfish is watching!"
The echoes ceased resonating, but the Hylians remained motionless, waiting to see if anything more was to come. Overhead, the trees wavered, shaking in the breeze, but the whisper of feathery wings did not erupt from the darkness. "Tail Cave?" Link asked quietly, staring into the inky black night.
Zelda nodded absently. "It's near the shore where I found you. No one ever goes near the place."
"And this key?"
"I don't know," she whispered.
"This is the second time our mysterious friend has mentioned the Windfish. Are you sure you know nothing about it?"
"Absolutely nothing," she promised, removing a single arrow and stringing it into her bow.
"Well then," he muttered, lifting his hand in the direction of the forest. "Shall we?"
Each of them glancing wearily from side to side, scrutinizing the shadows, they tread slowly into the mouth of the forest. As opposed to the friendly temple of green and blue that the forest served as during the day, at night it turned into a rough and tangled predator. All around them, darkness prevailed. Link swung his sword nervously from side to side, almost expecting a demon or some other hideous creature to spring upon them from the surrounding nothingness.
A wolf howled, causing Link's heart to jump up into his throat. He turned to Zelda, just barely visible in the darkness, her blue eyes dancing like an exotic cat's eyes. "I don't suppose you have any idea where we should go next."
"Our friend said something about a key."
"A key to what?" he asked.
Link heard fabric rustling as she shrugged. "Tail Cave?"
"I don't understand. Why do we want to go to Tail Cave? What's there for us?"
"According to legend," she whispered, turning the point of her arrow from side to side, "Tail Cave is a dungeon, the home of a Nightmare."
"Nightmare?" Link asked, turning toward the sound of Zelda's voice. "What do you mean Nightmare?"
"The Nightmares were a fetish a long while ago, the subject of ancient Koholint ghost stories."
"Well, according to the stories I remember, there are eight Nightmares, Tail, Gene, Iris, Angelika, Catsy, Face, Hawk, and Flame."
"Interesting names," Link deadpanned, turning the tip of his sword back to the shadows beside him.
"The Nightmares were little more than fairy tale monsters from what I remember. They each inhabited one of the eight dungeons of Koholint."
"Wait a second, there are eight dungeons on this island?"
"So you're telling me that there are eight mysterious dungeons, that no one ever goes near, and you still don't believe in these Nightmares?"
"You didn't let me finish," she said sharply.
"Anyway, according to these stories, all the Nightmares were responsible for was keeping the people of Koholint from leaving."
"Now that's something that applies to us!" Link said triumphantly.
The stillness was ripped apart suddenly by a defiant laughter. Zelda and Link quickly backed into each other, each facing a different direction, weapon at the ready. "What was that?" Zelda hissed, her eyes sweeping across the void.
"I don't know," he whispered back, examining a tree with a trunk thicker than Tarin's house.
"You're going to be lost thanks to me!" a sadistic voice crowed out of nowhere.
"Run?" Link asked, his voice an octave higher than usual.
"Good idea," she replied, sprinting forward into the forest.
Link chased after her, into the foggy night, but as he followed her into the fine mist, he felt a peculiar sensation run over his body. His skin began to tingle, like an electrical current was rushing through his body. A fragrant smell filled his head, making him dizzy and faint, as though he were being lifted by Farore's Wind. He moved forward at a snail's pace, but he could no longer feel his feet pounding against the dirt-packed forest floor.
Suddenly, and without warning, the fog lifted, leaving Link back in the pitch-black darkness of the night. He blinked, trying to adjust his eyes to the abrupt change in nighttime hues. Turning in a full circle, he tried to get his bearings. To his right, he noticed an enormous tree, the truck as big as a house. As big as Tarin's house. "Zelda," he muttered, "I think we've just gone in a circle." He waited for her to respond, but only silence prevailed. "Zelda?" He turned his head, seeking out his companion. "Zelda?"
"Link?" Zelda called, turning around in stationary circles. Much to her dismay, all she could see surrounding her was darkness, darkness, and more darkness. Her knuckles had turned white from gripping her bowstring, but she did not dare lower her aim, for fear that something horrifying would leap out at her from the trees.
Struggling to get her bearings, she turned back in the direction from which she had come. The strange midnight fog had vanished, seemingly as quickly as it had appeared. Although it seemed peculiar, Zelda had enjoyed the sensation of the mist washing over her, as though the silky fog held a magical touch that soothed her body like the easy flow of the tide.
"Link!" she called out again, knowing well that her cries were in vain. Without any better idea of what to do, she started walking forward again, swinging her arms from side to side, weary for potential predators. She listened to the sound of her sandals crunching down on the dry summer twigs that littered the path. The road was familiar; she had traveled it numerous times during the light of day, but never at this eerie hour. Hunting in the woods was one thing, but skulking about in the dark was another, of this she was certain. In her mind was a cognitive map of the entire forest, but it did her no good now. Her eyes searched the sides of the path, seeking out a familiar tree, a landmark of some kind, perhaps even Tracey's tiny hut. The point of her arrow darted furiously as her feelings became more and more vivid. Zelda didn't like being scared. For as long as she could recall, Marin had never been afraid, of course, Marin had never gone out into the middle of the night on a crazy hunch that something was waiting for her to find.
How strange it was that she saw herself as two different people. Marin and Zelda shared the same body, the same features, even the same past and present, so why was it that Zelda had difficulty figuring out which one she was? This was a question she had been wrestling with for some time, more than ever now that Link was with her. To him, she was Zelda, and she would always be Zelda, but then there was the matter of everyone else on the island who knew her only as Marin. For the past nine years she had known herself as Marin, but now her inner monologue called her Zelda.
"Poor lost little girl," a sinister voice chanted from the trees.
"Show yourself!" Zelda shouted, turning her arrow up to the sky, searching for the source of her voice. Through the trees she saw not even the slightest hint of starlight, let alone a figure that she could easy aim for.
"You don't have to see my face," the voice chided her in a distinctly male tone.
"What do you want?" she asked fiercely.
"I already have what I want."
"And what's that?"
"For you to become lost."
"What do you mean? Are you the one that separated me from Link?"
The voice cackled. "So many questions, so few answers."
"I was getting too close to something, wasn't I?" She waited for a reply, but none came. "I thought so," she continued aloud, lowering her aim and pressing forward.
"You don't want to go that way," the voice cooed.
"Why? Afraid I'll find something you don't want me to see?"
"No, afraid you'll fall into a tar pit, never to return."
"You're just trying to scare me," she reasoned, her eyes frantically searching the darkness for a source of the mysterious voice.
The mysterious man snickered. "All alone, lost little lamb? Are you a gift for me? A pretty gift indeed."
Zelda tensed, realizing that whatever was talking to her could see her, even through the thick darkness. "Wolf more than lamb," she shot back hotly.
"A pretty offering indeed. Worthy of sacrifice."
"I don't plan on being sacrificed any time soon, thank you very much." She frowned, stopping just short of walking into a tree. "What have you done with Link?"
"The Golden Boy is not gone, only lost, a lost little lamb like you my worthy offering. Lost in the night, lost in the mist, lost at sea."
She fired an arrow up into the sky. The voice chuckled, obviously unharmed by her futile attempt. "You must be awfully lonely to need me for company."
"No one needs you," the voice replied. "You'd be better off lost in these woods with me. You are the lonely one."
"That's not me any more," Zelda said, realizing how very true her words were even as she spoke them. For nearly ten years she had felt very much alone on Koholint, but not now. She now had Link to share her secrets with.
"No," the voice muttered, "no you have the Golden Boy. The Hero of Time. The Chosen One."
"All right. You obviously seem to know about Link and me. Why don't you tell me something about yourself?"
The voice laughed again. "Turn back little girl, turn back you know not what you do. You're messing with powerful forces beyond what you can comprehend."
"And if I don't?
A sharp scream pierced the night. All around her, Zelda heard voices, seemingly coming out of the trees. They were panicked sounds, as if each speaker was unreachable and lost and their cries were the only echoes that remained of their spirits, forever buried within the shadows of the midnight forest.
"No way out!" a despairing woman moaned.
"Somebody help me!"
"No," a baritone moaned, "please, not like this!"
"No one will hear your screams," a childish female voice whispered, "you'll die alone."
"Don't leave me!"
"Make it stop! Make it stop!"
She turned around. "Link!" she cried, trying to find the direction of his voice.
Over the din, the sardonic invisible voice laughed. "No way out, forever darkness, all is lost," he chanted.
"This is all a trick isn't it?" Zelda shouted, turning her face to the forest canopy. "You're just trying to scare me away." Summoning the mental reserves that she had only recently begun to understand, she blocked out the screaming, agonized voices, fighting through the terror to the sound of the cricket chorus.
She was spending so much energy to block out the noises, that she crashed right into a solid rock formation. Blinking away the dizziness in her eyes, she reached a hand forward, releasing her bowstring, to feel the rock wall. With an immense wave of relief, she realized that she was standing at the mouth of Toadstool Cave, a familiar part of the forest where she often went in search of mushrooms. For a brief moment, she considered going inside, but she decided the last thing she wanted was to be trapped in an enclosed space with that voice.
Pushing away from the rock and moving what she now knew to be north, she raised her chin to the sky. "My mother's hair is crimson silk, glowing in the sun. Her skin is ivory and coral with pearls for eyes," she sang as the words to the song she had written herself rushed over her tongue. "Her lips are rose and violets are her sweet perfume. A velvet cloak, beaded with stars, the golden sun a comb for her hair."
"Pretty song," the voice said smoothly. "Does it make you feel less afraid?"
"I'm not afraid of what I can't see."
"You ought to be more afraid of mystery than familiarity," the voice replied.
"Not at all," she said bravely, half trying to convince herself. "What I am is a complete mystery to me, yet I am not afraid of myself."
"You think you are so wise, but you are naïve. You will learn."
"Wisdom runs in my veins," she gushed. "I have grown up surrounded by those who are wise. If I am not wise yet, then surly I will be one day."
"Only if you live to see tomorrow."
"You're trying to threaten me again," she murmured, "but I'm not going to turn back. Since you seem to know a lot about me, you should know that I rarely ever change my mind."
"I know that about you," the voice said sharply. "But it's not wise to be so stubborn, so determined."
"Then I am a wise fool." She paused, trying to figure out where to go. As she looked around, she was puzzled by the sudden appearance of a fine, white mist on the forest floor. It was so thick that she could scarcely make out her own feet. A remarkably cool feeling ran over her toes. "The fog!" she realized aloud. "This is some sort of spell! You're transporting me! That's how you separated us!"
The voice did not reply. Realizing that she had precious little time before the fog entirely consumed her, Zelda darted across the road. Knowing she was close to something, she fell to her hands and knees, running her fingers over the dirt in search of something, anything. With the fog rising at such an accelerated rate, she realized she only had seconds to spare. Her hands hit against a signpost. She had forgotten what was written, but as she felt around the wooden stake, her hands fell over a leathery solid. Pulling the object into her arms, she felt a light and feathery sensation as her body was transported off the ground and set down someplace else.
The fog parted, leaving her alone on a grassy clearing, huddling with her knees to her chest. Above her, the trees parted, allowing powerful beams of white starlight to penetrate into the forest. She slowly unfolded her knees, finding a book cradled against her chest. Old and worn out, the title, scrawled across the dusty black cover read 'Nightmare.'
Her jaw dropped open. She slowly brought her fingers to the side, intent on flipping the cover open when the voice returned. "Get the book!" it screamed with such urgency that the entire clearing seemed to shake.
Instantly at the sound of his command, three pairs of gleaming red eyes appeared from the darkness. They moved closer, converging in on Zelda. She had never seen a real demon before, and now judging from what she saw, she could understand why they hid during the daylight hours. All three were tall and burly with glowing red eyes and tattered loincloths of animal fur. Their skin was a deep green color and all over their flesh dripped an amber fluid, so viscous that it coated their full bodies, creating a yellow gleam in the moonlight. Each had a face that reminded Zelda of Ganondorf, only they had elongated snouts, sporting bronze nose rings.
On instinct, Zelda reached for an arrow from her quiver, only to realize that she had dropped her bow when the mist first appeared. Clasping the book to her breastbone, she took several deep breaths, trying to imagine fighting off all three of these creatures. Before she could make her first move, however, an intense white light erupted out of nothingness, instantly turning the inky blackness into a brightness greater than that of any day. Zelda lifted her free hand, shielding her eyes. Although she couldn't see them, she could tell from the demons' astonished grunts that they were equally surprised.
The light died out as quickly as it came. Zelda stumbled backwards, bringing her hand over her eyes and blinking to restore her distraught vision. The demons began to scream and Zelda looked up. Although her eyes could not clear up so quickly, she saw a silhouetted figure warding the demons off. It was a distinctly female form, draped in a flowing gown with long, downy hair flying in all directions. Mounted on the silhouette's back were two enormous wings, constructed of feathers.
Zelda brought her hand over her eyes again, hoping to submerge them in darkness long enough to clear her vision. When she looked up again, the pale starlight was sufficient light to see by and she noted that the figure was most definitely female, as hinted at by her light blond hair, falling down well past her knees.
She was warding off the demons, throwing a grainy white powder at them. They seemed to repeal at its touch, falling back deeper and deeper into the forest behind them. Her gigantic white wings were spread out, as if she had only just alighted from flight. They fanned out over her head, shaking with her movement and further frightening the retreating monsters.
Zelda calmed down little by little, leaning her posture forward to watch the spectacle as her arm dropped from its reach toward her quiver. The book on her chest bobbed up and down as Zelda struggled to calm her breathing. Deciding to be a little bit brave, she took an uncertain step forward, watching curiously as the demons ran from the white dust the winged creature threw in their direction.
Abruptly, the woman turned around, staring at Zelda with cool blue eyes. She felt her heart skip a beat as the familiarity dawned on her. A whirlwind of thoughts raced through Zelda's mind, but before she could put any of her confusion into words, the girl in the white dress shouted, "Behind you!" raising a hand to point over Zelda's shoulder.
She turned around, finding a forth demon standing behind her. Not even considering how long it had been standing there, Zelda reached into her quiver and pulled out an arrow. Thrusting it forward, she slammed it into the monster's arm. It reeled back in pain, roaring like an injured bear. Recovering, it started to advance on Zelda, but before it got close enough to do her any harm, a sprinkle of white powder floated down from the sky, sending the demon howling back into the forest, an arrow still sticking out of his arm.
The threat gone, Zelda faced her savior again. Struggling to form cohesive words, she stared directly into the woman's face, only managing to mutter a single question. "Valerie?"
She smiled, seeming to enjoy herself thoroughly. "You're welcome," she responded, folding her arms.
Zelda gaped at the large wings on her formerly familiar friend's back. "How?" she asked, just barely spitting the word out.
"Well," she said impishly. "Now we both have a secret." In the same blinding flash of light that had heralded her appearance, Valerie disappeared, leaving Zelda alone in the clearing, clutching the book with one hand and slowly bringing her other hand to her mouth.
By this time, Link was completely turned around. Twice now, since he had been separated from Zelda, he had passed through the same warm, electric mist, only to find himself someplace completely different from where he wanted to be. No matter what direction he turned, he always ended up right back at the gigantic tree with a trunk as big as a house. The darkness was as thick as a sheet of velvet and quickly beginning to suffocate the befuddled Hylian boy.
"Are we lost Hero?" an annoying voice asked. For the past twenty minutes or so, the disembodied voice had been taunting Link, taking pleasure in his every wrong turn. Being accustomed to such torment, Link had tried his best to ignore the sound, but now, his nerves raw and his feet aching, he found that the sound was penetrating his best defenses and getting under his skin.
"We are not lost," he growled, pausing beside a tree to lift a foot and rub his sole. "I am lost. You seem to know perfectly well where you are."
"You must be getting bored if you're talking to me now," the voice echoed, almost sounding triumphant.
"Talking to disembodied voices?" Link muttered, "An old hat at this point."
"Do you often talk to invisible people?"
"Far more often than I'd like."
"Maybe you're going insane."
"Maybe." He lowered his foot. Turning his face upward, he called out "Zelda!"
The forest erupted. "Zelda!" the echo shouted. "Zelda! Zelda! Zelda!" It bounced off of trees, flying over Link's head and ringing in his ears. "Zelda! Zelda! Zelda! Zelda!" The echo died, but the noise did not. All around him, the forest screamed, letting loose cries of pain, longing sobs, panicked bellowing. A thousand voices hummed, like an orchestra, drowning out the sound of Link's own thoughts. Grunting, he clapped his hands over his ears, closing his eyes tightly.
"You've proven such a disappointment Hero," the mysterious voice clucked, penetrating the cacophony and the defenses around Link's ears. "I would have thought you would have figured it out by now."
"Wisdom's never been my strongest virtue," he replied through bared teeth. Opening his eyes, he began walking forward, the power of the noise driving against him, like a gust of wind. He fought back, taking one labored step after another. With great effort, he walked on. Some while ago, he had lost his sword. While a difficult loss to cope with, he knew better than to go looking for it in the middle of this nightmare. He would have to wait until daybreak to find it, assuming he made it that far.
"Why do you persist Hero?" the coy voice asked. "Give up already, you're far to weary to continue fighting your own madness."
Madness? Link snorted indignantly. Whatever was happening to the world around him, he knew it wasn't in his head. He was not going mad. "The Hero's triumph on Cataclysm's Eve," he recited the inscription on his sword to himself, "wins three symbols of virtue."
"You're talking to yourself Hero."
Link ignored the voice. "The Master Sword shall he then retrieve, keeping the knight's line true."
"Stop ignoring me!" the voice snapped.
Link began singing the hymn of the Hero of Destiny. "Courage, Wisdom, be my guide. Of Power never let me be denied. Bring forth honor to my family tree, for I am the Hero of Destiny."
"Three virtues are mine to claim, before I burn in the distant flame. Shine your golden light on me, for I am the Hero of Destiny," he continued off key.
"I said stop it! You must obey me."
Link smiled fiercely. "There shall come a time when the Hero is needed, though Time we have plenty to spare," he chanted, recalling the ancient seal of the Hero of Time. "Be sure every last warning is heeded, the answer lies deep in there."
"Take your own advice Hero! I'm warning you…"
"Ancient lore come to me!" he screamed the anthem of the Hero of Lore, "My heart is opening and waiting! Truth and knowledge set me free! To you I am only obeying!"
"You'll never have her!!!" the voice screamed, echoing through the forest.
Silence. As the echoes died, Link slowed to a stop, dropping his hands from his ears. The screaming was gone now, the air was still and thin once more. He stood perfectly still, listening as his own heart raced, pounding against the inside of his rib cage. Although completely at a loss to explain what had happened, the voice's final words rang through his brain. You'll never have her? Never have who?
He took several deep breaths. Turning around to examine his surroundings he found, not to his surprise, that he was once again beside the enormous tree with a house sized trunk. "Great," he muttered. "I recite all that junk they made me memorize and look how far it gets me. I'm right back where I started."
"Link!" a female voice cried.
Link turned around, struggling to see in the darkness. "Zel…" he stopped himself. Two blurry figures were approaching him from the south, racing. The first was small and female, but behind her was a second form, about two feet taller and male. "Who's there?" he called out, raising his hand above his head.
"It is, it is Link!" the woman cried, sounding relieved. She moved into Link's visual perimeter and he recognized her was Matilda.
"Matilda? What are you doing out here at this hour?" he asked.
"Same to you," she said, slowing to a trot. "What's going on?"
"I don't know," he said carefully.
"Did you hear those voices?" she asked, panting.
"Yeah," he admitted.
"I heard it."
By this time, Carry had caught up with Matilda. He offered a small smile at Link. Judging from the dirt smeared over his cheeks, it looked as though he and Matilda had been in the forest for hours. "What was the noise?" he asked Link.
"I don't know Carry," Link sighed. He looked back at Matilda. "What are you two doing out here?"
"I left a book in the forest," Matilda said sheepishly. "We came here to retrieve it…hours ago."
"We keep going in circles," Carry explained.
"Carry knows these woods blindfolded," Matilda added, "but we're still lost."
"I know," Link said, deciding to let them in on his troubles. "The same thing's been happening to me. I came here with Marin." Matilda's eyebrows jumped slightly. "She was going to show me the path to Tal Tal Heights," he added quickly.
"Where is she?" Carry asked.
"I don't know," Link said, letting a bit of his frustration seep into his voice. "We got separated in the fog. I've been walking in circles for a half hour now. Maybe more."
"I've come to these woods many times at night," Matilda said firmly, "and this has never happened. The voices, the strange mist, the paths and going in circles, none of it."
"There's got to be a way out of here," Link said, turning in circles. The moonlight glinted off of something in the grass. Slowly, he followed the light and found his sword lying in the grass. He reached out to pick it up, but suddenly, a loud hissing noise came from the blade and before his eyes, his sword turned into a long silver serpent that slithered away from his grasp. Link gasped, leaping back. "We need to get out of here, now," he said loudly.
"No argument from me." Matilda turned and looked at Carry. "Which way?"
Carry turned his face from side to side. "There," he said, pointing a clawed finger in an unremarkable direction. Banding closely together, the three of them began down the path, three sets of eyes sweeping from side to side as they searched the shadows.
"Why did you leave a book in the forest?" Link asked suddenly, as the thought occurred to him.
"Why do you want to go to Tal Tal Heights with Marin?" Matilda shot back.
Link remained silent. Opening the doorways in his mind, he called out to her telepathically, knowing she couldn't possibly hear him. *Zelda,* his mind whispered, *Where are you?* All Hylians were capable of such telepathic communication, but Link knew that Zelda had never practiced it. It was impossible for her to hear him.
"Carry, this is not the way out of the forest," Matilda hissed. "We need to go south, not north."
"How do you know we're going north?" Link asked.
Matilda tugged on a black string around her neck. Link looked to her throat and he saw a copper compass dangling from the thin rope. "I've had it for years," she explained, "it washed up on the shore one day."
"We're not going out of the forest," Carry said quietly.
"Then where are we going?" Matilda asked impatiently.
"To find Little Marin."
"Oh," Matilda frowned. "What makes you think she's in this direction?"
"I can smell her."
Up the road, there was a loud roaring sound, as if someone had fallen into a body of water. "That's Manbo Pond!" Matilda cried.
"That's Little Marin!" Carry added.
Instantly, the three of them were running. Link was the first to reach the water's edge. He had seen Manbo Pond many times before in the light of day, but in the darkness, the place was foreign to him. During the day, the water was metallic blue, the sunlight filtering in through the trees, causing the ripples to shimmer and shine, lighting up the area with silver reflections. Tonight, however, the water looked black and sinister. The ripples looked like waves of black ink, oozing up and down to kiss the grassy bank.
Sitting in the middle of the water was Zelda. She was facing to one side, her skin ghostly pale, her eyes wide with surprise, as though she had somehow just stumbled into the water and was too shocked to realize it. Her arms were wrapped around her torso and she rocked back and forth slightly, causing the water to bob up and down against her arms.
"Marin?" Matilda asked, catching up with Link.
Zelda looked up at the three of them. Instantly, the veil of shock that had numbed her responses was lifted. She stood up, water dripping from her hair and sleeves into the murky depths. "I fell," she whispered, climbing out of the water, still hugging herself. Carry removed the outermost layer of his robes and handed it to Link. Gently, Link draped it over Zelda's shoulders, pulling her close to his chest. She nuzzled her face into his shoulder and pressed something against his arm. Looking down discretely, he saw that she was hugging a large book.
"Are you all right?" Matilda asked.
"I'm fine, just a little cold. What are you doing in the forest?" she asked.
"We're lost here, same as you."
"Which way out of here?" Link asked Carry.
Carry turned in a full circle, feeling the wind on his face. "That way," he said, pointing in the direction from which they had come. Silently, they all began walking in that direction.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Link asked Zelda quietly, putting a protective arm over her shoulders.
"I'm fine," she replied in complete monotone.
"And you know that voice is so convincing," he said, sounding somewhat hurt.
"We have to talk later," she whispered. "I saw something in the forest."
The rest of the walk was in complete silence. The group reached the entrance to the village mercifully, without incident. "Why did the disturbances stop?" Matilda asked quietly, as the village well came into view.
"They were happening while we were trying to go deeper into the woods," Link reasoned. "They stopped when we decided to leave the woods."
"I guess," she said with a sigh. "I'll be afraid to go back in the morning though."
"You don't have to."
"Yes I do. My book is still in there." She glanced at Link. "And I'm guessing your sword is out there too."
"Yeah," he admitted. The group parted ways. Matilda and Carry headed across the village for their respective homes, Matilda in the prairie and Carry in the Animal Village. Zelda and Link turned into Tarin's hut where they found him snoring happily in his bed. Together, they sat on the windowsill, Zelda shivering from the cold. "What did you want to tell me?" Link asked.
"In the morning," she whispered sleepily, resting her head on his shoulder. She meant to close her eyes only for an instant, but the next thing she knew, she was asleep, the sadistic voice that had haunted them in the forest laughing, as Valerie flew through her mind on gossamer wings.
As he entered the room, he felt a great swell of heat rush upon him. They sat in a circle, in a balcony above his head. Directly before him was Flame. All around, they looked down upon him. Tail. Gene. Iris. Angelika. Catsy. Face. Hawk. All staring down on him with looks ranging from annoyance to pure anger. He felt himself grow smaller in their presence. Although he knew somewhere in his soul that he was worthy to sit among their ranks, his better nature told him to bow his head in reverence and play the humble servant.
The room was dark, all light emanating from Flame's glowing body. The eight of them inhabited the upper sphere, leaving him alone in the lower part of the chamber. Orange tiles lined the floor. The walls were made of oak paneling, making the room surprisingly humble for all the power it held. As he stepped forward, the giant mother-of-pearl doors behind him slammed shut of their own will. He stepped into the middle of the circle, his palms becoming greasy and slick.
"You have failed," Flame's voice boomed as he leaned over the copper railing to glare at his inferior.
"I offer penance," he replied evenly.
"You should be offering more than that," Iris snapped, her voice carrying across the room, making the panels shake.
"Would you prefer it if I offered my life?" he asked angrily.
"It would be a start," she replied.
Flame lifted a hand, silencing her. "You promised us the Princess of Destiny would be dead. You promised us this over ten years ago. And when she continued to walk on, you convinced us it would be vital for her to survive until today. We have waited patiently, counting the hours until the time came. And now that it is upon us and you have the opportunity and ability to eliminate both the girl and the Hero of Time, you delay further. Explain your actions."
"You told me to destroy her on the assumption that she would prove a threat to our…your power, on the island," he said, taking several steps forward, his heels clicking on the tiles. "So far, she has not made any movement against us."
"The Princess of Destiny and the Hero of Time have begun questing after the key to Tail Cave," Hawk said in a nasal tone. "This much is known."
"Yes," he said, lifting a finger, "but have any of you paused in your infinite wisdom to consider where they learned about our power?"
"It is hidden from us," Iris said dismissively. "It does not matter however. What matters is that they pose a threat to our standing and you should have eliminated both of them by now."
"In good time my lady, in good time," he continued. "But we must first learn how this knowledge fell into their hands. If we don't, who's to say that someone else won't be a threat in the future?"
"There is no one on this island to pose a threat," Angelika said.
"Yes," Gene agreed, "who's going to threaten us? The secret hunter? The old man? The dog owner?"
"They are unimportant," Tail added.
"Yes, it's true that the visions have been clear," he continued, walking in a semi-circle to address all eight of them. "It is because of the Hylians alone that your power is in danger, but there's no way of knowing how great their influence is. For all we know, the only way they'll threaten your power is by telling someone else who will come after it."
"You've seen what that boy is capable of," Face said, blinking his enormous black eyes. "He's the true threat. And everything he can do, the Princess of Destiny has the potential to do as well. The longer we delay their extermination, the more difficult it will be."
"There is a more democratic way of settling this debate," Flame said, taking control. "Is there anyone among us who supports a further delay to gather information?"
They all shook their heads slowly except for one. "I believe there is some value in this delay," Catsy said, folding her arms and leaning back in her throne.
"What value?" Flame asked incredulously.
"I too am curious to know the source of their information. For the last two months, neither has shown any interest in waking the Windfish, I would like to know what sparked their desire."
He bowed to her, grateful for her support. "I thank you my lady."
"Well, it seems you have an advocate," Flame sighed. "Tell us your plan."
"I mean to find out how much they know," he started, turning to address Flame directly. "I mean to learn how they discovered this. And then I mean to deprive the Hero of Time of his life."
"And the Princess of Destiny?" Flame asked. "What of her?"
"I have not decided yet." All around the room, grumbling erupted as the various individuals turned to mutter to each other. "Please, please!" he held up his arms to silence them. "I have only the best intentions at heart. I should not wish to spill blood unnecessarily. She's been on the island for many years now, showing no interest in leaving. Perhaps once the Hero of Time is gone, her ambition will wane."
"Since when have you been so squeamish?" Hawk asked, leering.
"I hope I am not over-stepping my bounds when I say that I know a great deal more about mortals than anyone else in this company," he stated, turning to address Catsy. "They notice when their comrades are killed. I do not wish to arouse any suspicions, in the unlikely event that there is another among them capable of threatening us…you."
"Correct the first time young one," Flame said firmly. "Any threat to our power is a threat to yours as well. Or perhaps I should say your potential power. Once this threat has been eliminated, we shall have more time on our hands to focus on other matters. Matters such as whether or not you will join our ranks as a complete equal."
"I long to join your ranks," he said, turning momentarily to Flame. "But I have an eternity for that and only a limited amount of time to finish this, and finish it correctly," he turned back to Catsy.
"Or could it be that you feel something for the Princess of Destiny?" Iris sneered.
"Do tell us," Hawk continued for her, "what is it that you do feel for her. Is it pity? Compassion? Love?"
"None of the above," he said quickly. "Pure contempt, nothing more."
"Do not try to hide from us," Flame warned him. "We see all."
"All except for the forces working against us," he said boldly.
"I see the Princess of Destiny and the Hero of Time very well," Flame snapped.
He stepped back. "That is not what I mean. There is no doubt that the two of them are working against us, but there is something else driving them, something more powerful than we can possibly imagine. And I say we face it, learn what it is and how to destroy it."
"A greater power? There is nothing greater than us on this island," Hawk scoffed. "Nothing except for the Windfish. And the Windfish slumbers."
"The Windfish is not capable of driving the Hylians," Iris declared.
"Then perhaps it's something beyond the island."
"Beyond the island?" Flame asked.
"Yes," he continued passionately, "something we've never dealt with before. Something with great power."
"You sound almost excited at the prospect," Iris muttered.
"I truly am my lady."
"Why?" Hawk asked. "Do you wish for us to be defeated?"
"No, of course not. I only mean that it is not often we find ourselves in a fight that we're certain we cannot defeat." He glanced around the room. "I welcome the prospect of a challenge."
"Very well," Iris droned, looking at each of her siblings. "What say we?"
Flame stood up, looking directly downward. "We grant you permission to investigate this supposed power."
"I thank you," he started to bow.
"However," Flame held up a hand. "We grant you no more than two days. After these two days, if the Hylians are not dead…"
"I understand," he cut Flame off. Bowing humbly, he shuffled backward, toward the great doors, which magically opened behind him. Reaching them, he straightened up, turned around, and sauntered out of the room. As the doors slammed shut behind him, he swore loudly, kicking a crab that happened to be scuttling across the sand. He started to walk away, the great hall disappearing from mortal vision. Two days. How could he possibly accomplish anything in such a short time span? His mind drifted to Zelda. What was he to do with her? In two days, he would have to find some reasonable excuse to keep her alive a great while longer. Perhaps for the rest of eternity.
The gray sky was just turning a pale pink when Zelda stirred from her dreams. She sat up with a start, her eyes slow to adjust to the darkness of the room. Tarin was in his bed against the wall, snoring softly, a silvery thread of drool hanging from his lips. On the windowsill, Link was sprawled out like a cat sunning itself. His eyes were closed and his head turned back and forth fitfully.
Zelda pressed her palms to her cheeks. A warm aura spread over her hands, her face was flushed and red. After taking several deep breaths, she calmed her racing heart. What had scared her? She remembered limping back to the cabin with Link, both of them exhausted from their nightmarish exodus in the forest. Slipping her legs out from under the thin homespun quilt and putting her bare feet on the cold floor another memory ignited in her mind.
Leaning over to the nightstand, she found a leather-bound book. Picking it up, she examined it. Nightmares. She remembered telling Link about them. She remembered thinking about them yesterday in the library before Kurt had come. Now, she held a book about them in her hands and she found herself chilled.
She frowned. As chilling of a coincidence as it was, she knew somewhere inside of her heart that it wasn't the book that was bothering her. Something else had happened last night, something that was blocked from her mind. Silently, she rose from the bed, placing the book underneath her mattress. After slipping into a pair of comfortable sandals and lacing them up to her knees, she crept out the door, shutting it quietly behind her.
All of Koholint was quiet. Not the same quiet that had greeted her at midnight, there was far more peace enfolding her. She walked easily down the south road, heading toward the beach. She wasn't sure what compelled her to go there at this hour. Somehow, things always made more sense to her when she was near the ocean. Secrets were revealed, veils were lifted, and every puzzle had a solution on the beach.
She stopped at the village well. Dipping her hand in and filling her palm with water, she turned her face to the woods. They didn't seem as ominous in the daylight. As she let the sweet, cold water rush past her lips, she tried to piece together what had happened only a few hours ago. Something had separated her from Link, sending them both on a wild chase. Every time she got close to something, she had been picked up and set down somewhere she had already been. It was a wonder she had found the book at all. And that voice…
Starting down the road on her way to the beach, Zelda reflected on the mysterious voice. It had known her, not just in the way an observer knew the observed. It had spoken to her as a person, it had known her feelings for Link. There was something frightfully familiar about the tone it had taken with her. It had spoken to her as though it had done so many times before. "Silly little Marin," the voice had said in a strange sort of way, "off you go again on another flight of fancy." Whoever it was, it knew her.
The sound of the waves kissing the shore reached her acute hearing. Looking out over the water, she saw a bright crimson cloud, reflecting the sun that had only begun to rise. So many times she had watched the sunset over the beach, but somehow, she had always failed to notice the sunrise. Pausing for a minute, she looked over her shoulder at the pinpoint of light slowly creeping over the summit of Tal Tal Heights. It stung her eyes, but at the same time, she felt captivated and only turned away after much debate.
Before long, she felt her feet sinking into the soft, moist sand. The emerald waves came into view and she found herself compelled to draw closer. Like a tightrope walker, she walked across the point where the shore met the water, her fingers drifting to the silver amulet hanging from her neck. With amazing clarity, she realized that as long as that voice was taunting her and leading her along in the maze of a forest, she would never take the first step to returning to Hyrule.
"It wants to keep you here. It wants to keep us all here," a soft voice whispered from out of nowhere. Zelda turned around. It took all of her newly gained discipline not to scream when she saw Valerie standing behind her. The memory immediately came back to her. She had seen Valerie in the woods with enormous wings mounted on her back. Val had saved her from a pack of demons, using magic dust.
For the longest moment of her life, Zelda stood there, staring at Valerie, completely at a loss for words. She felt her jaw loosening once or twice, but words always failed her and she felt it tighten again. For once in her life, she had no idea what to say. Slowly, she took two or three steps backward, holding her arms stiff at her sides.
"Please don't run away," Valerie said quietly, holding her arms out in front of her in a comforting gesture.
"I…" Zelda trailed off. "I can't stay here."
"I don't know what you are any more. Yesterday you were Valerie, my friend since childhood."
"I'm still the same person."
"What are you?"
Valerie smiled. Shrugging ever so slightly she muttered, "Well, I'm an angel."
"An angel?" Zelda said, struggling to keep her voice steady. "Is that all?" she added sarcastically.
"Haven't you ever wondered why Richard calls me one?"
"Your secret!" Zelda shouted evenly. "Of course, well that makes everything so much clearer now." She turned and started walking down the shore.
Valerie broke into a trot, chasing after her until they were side by side. "Well I'm not the only one who's been hiding things, Zelda Harkin."
Zelda stopped abruptly, turning her head to meet Valerie's gaze. "How…?"
"How long have I known?" Valerie finished for her. "Since the day you washed up on this shore."
"Didn't work on me." Valerie laughed. "You Hylians are too cocky about your own magic. You're always so shocked when you see that it doesn't work on everyone."
"You've know about me…for nine years? And you never said anything?"
"I never intended to let you know."
"I can't tell you that."
Zelda started walking again. "Well, this is making the kind of sense that…well it's making no sense."
"Please believe me, I have your best interests at heart."
"You've got an interesting way of showing that."
"That's your problem Zelda," she stopped, looking from side to side. "Marin. You have absolutely no faith."
"Faith? When did this become about faith?"
"Fortunately Link's got enough faith for the both of you," she continued.
"Link?" Zelda looked at Valerie again. "You know about him to?"
"The Hero of Time? He who defeated Ganon? Of course I know about him. But I didn't have to tap into anything for that information. He's not hiding anything."
"Hiding? Is that what I'm doing? Hiding?"
Valerie snorted. "Well it certainly seems that way to me. You've forgotten your faith. Din, Nayru, and Farore haven't forgotten you though."
"Have you come here to preach to me? I've had enough of preaching. Link's trying so hard to coax magic out of me, Tarin's trying so hard to make me behave normally. I don't need you telling me that I haven't prayed enough."
"You're Hylian, the faith is in you, just like the magic. You just can't release it."
She closed her eyes. "I'm trying," she whined.
"It looks an awful lot like giving up to me."
"Why are you on this island?" Zelda asked. "Did some goddess send you down here to watch over me and see if I was capable of believing?"
"No. I was sent here by Farore, but the purpose of my presence cannot be discussed. Not with you, not with Link."
"I'm sorry," Zelda whispered, shaking her head. "This is too much information, coming at me too quickly." With that, she turned and started walking up the beach to Sale's shop. She disappeared inside, leaving Valerie behind.
Valerie turned to face the sea. Looking out over the waves, she watched the sky turn pinker until it suddenly cooled off with a wash of blue. The sunlight broke over the mountains, showering her with gold warmth. Her eyes dropped until she saw a white shell lying on the sand. Tenderly, she picked up the shell, closing her fingers around.
"Valerie?" Looking up, the girl saw Link trudging down the shore. He was half dressed and running as he tied the straps of his gloves. "Have you seen Marin?" he asked, slowing to a trot.
"Not today," Valerie replied, shaking her head, "but it's early yet."
"I have to find her. We were supposed to discuss something important."
"I'm sure," Valerie nodded. Link started to walk past her, but she reached out a hand, taking his arm and pulling him back. "Link, you must listen to me, I have something very important to tell you."
"What is it?" he asked.
"You met Kurt yesterday, did you not?"
"Yeah, I did but…"
"Then listen to me. Don't just listen, hear me. Beware of Kurt, he's a danger to you and he's a danger to Marin. He's dangerous for everyone on this island, but you are the one eyed man in the land of the blind." She released the grip on his arm.
"What?" He blinked, completely baffled.
"He has something in common with you and Marin," Valerie said. "He's more than what he seems."
"I don't understand," Link continued.
"He must be kept away from Marin." Valerie placed the shell in Link's hand and then turned, walking away from him.
"Why must he be kept away from her?" Link called after Valerie. She continued walking. "What's going to happen?" Still, she kept going, never so much as glancing back at the thoroughly confused Hylian boy.
Tarin's back screamed in protest as he bent over to tuck the last neat hospital corner under the mattress of Marin's bed. "I am not getting old," he chanted quietly to himself. "I am not getting old."
There was a knock at the door. Straightening up, and quickly smoothing down his shirt, Tarin turned to face the entrance. "It's open," he called, sitting down on the bed. The doorknob turned slowly and finally, the door opened. Kurt stepped in. "Get out," Tarin growled, standing up again.
Kurt closed the door behind him. "You said your door was open."
"Not to you," Tarin replied crisply. "Get out of my house."
"It's not only your house," the boy said, walking past Tarin and looking down at Marin's quilt. "This house belongs to Marin." He eyed the windowsill for a moment, "And the outsider as I'm told."
"What do you want?" Tarin asked.
"I came to talk to you."
"I want nothing to do with you boy. You shame my household."
"Oh, I'm not the one that'll bring shame to your household," Kurt said, turning around to look at Tarin. "That boy is far more dangerous than I."
"You tried to turn my daughter's heart against me. You whispered lies in her ear so that she would come to you, against my wishes."
"Marin is a free and independent woman."
"Aye, now she's a free and independent woman, but then she was a girl."
"So if she wanted to come with me now, you wouldn't stop her?"
"She would never choose you Kurt, not after all that's happened. Besides, she's changed. You shouldn't have expected her to wait for your glorious return."
"Well, I never counted on this outsider coming and repeating past mistakes."
"What does that mean?"
"I'm not the one who's a danger to Marin. That pointy eared freak is the one who will get her killed."
Tarin narrowed his eyes, his cheeks flushing with anger. "And what does that mean?"
"All those walks that they take on the beach. You don't really think they're talking about plans for marriage and kids, do you? You're a deluded fool."
"How did you know about their walks on the beach?" Tarin asked, unable to hold back the surprise in his tone.
Ignoring Tarin's query, Kurt leaned over, ripping Marin's quilt up. He tossed it carelessly on the floor and reached under her mattress, pulling out her book. "See for yourself," he said, throwing the book at Tarin.
Tarin caught the book. "The Nightmares?" Tarin asked, frowning. "She's reading ghost stories and you call that rebellion."
"Ghost stories…perhaps." Kurt pointed at the book. "But the boy gave her that book. He's convinced her that the Nightmares are real. Tarin, he wants her to sneak into the dungeons with him because he thinks that he'll somehow manage to get off the island. And he wants to take her away with him."
"Link is not a fool. He knows better than to waltz into a strange dungeon, chasing after ghosts."
"The boy who carries a sword with him where ever he goes knows better?" Kurt asked skeptically. He reached under the flap of his collar and withdrew a piece of parchment. "Beware of the mark," he said, unfolding the page to show Tarin the Triforce Richard had drawn earlier. He dropped it down on the unmade bed.
"Get out of my house," Tarin whispered dangerously.
"No," Kurt replied defiantly. "I came here for Marin. You see, I promised myself that I would send for her, and today is the day. I won't leave without her."
"She won't go with you."
"If you try to stop her, old man, you'll regret it." Kurt took a menacing step in Tarin's direction.
"Is that a threat?" Tarin asked, standing his ground.
"Perhaps it is." Kurt reached out, grabbing Tarin's collar. With brute force, he pushed him over the bed so that his body was diagonal with the floor. Roughly, Tarin's head hit against the wall as he dropped the book.
"Get your hands off of me!" Tarin shouted, suddenly very loud.
"I don't take orders from you old man."
"Help!" Tarin yelled, turning his face to the wall.
Kurt twisted his fists, still full of Tarin's shirt. "You're not worth the effort to save." He pulled Tarin back, then pushed him forward again, hitting his head against the wall.
The door to the hut burst open. In ran Matilda, holding her hookshot like a bat. When she saw Kurt, she lowered the contraption onto her shoulder and pointed the sharp hook directly at Kurt's head. "Drop him," she commanded.
Richard appeared in the doorway. He looked somewhat confused. "What's going on in here?" he asked, surveying the scene.
Kurt continued to glare directly at Tarin. "Perhaps another day old man." He released his hold on Tarin's shirt, allowing the weaker man to fall onto the bed. That done, he turned to face Matilda and Richard. "He's not your friend," he growled. "No matter what you think about the outsider, he can only bring you pain and suffering. Rest assured, if he stirs up trouble in the dungeons, the entire island will pay."
Without another word, Kurt turned, stalking out of the hut, pushing Richard aside as he exited. Matilda slowly lowered her hookshot, discarding it on the floor and she rushed to Tarin's side. "Are you all right?" she asked, examining his head.
"He's a mad man," Tarin coughed. "He waltzed in here telling me that Link would get Marin killed."
"And the rest of the island apparently," Richard muttered from the doorway.
"He's going to take Marin."
Matilda turned to look at Richard. "You have to go stop him. Stall or something, but don't let him leave the village."
"You think he knows something?" Richard asked.
"No, I think he's a serious danger to Marin right now." She smirked. "Not to mention, I think it's strange that Kurt just shoved the only friend he has out of his way when he was making his exit."
"Oh, I get it, you're playing on my ego. I like that. I can respect that." Promptly, Richard turned in the doorway, stalking off after Kurt.
A little bell hanging over the door jingled when Marin walked in. She liked the sound for some reason. Perhaps it was because the sound was so much a part of the ordinary life she had enjoyed until a few weeks ago. Tracy looked up from her worktable where she was crushing some herbs with a large, flat stone. "Marin, I was just thinking about you," she said with a grin.
"It seems like everyone is," Marin muttered.
"Don't get egotistical," Tracy replied dryly. "What can I do for you?"
"I need some…um…some tanglewood killer."
"Tanglewood killer?" Tracy asked raising an eyebrow. "You came to my shop for tanglewood killer?"
"You make it, don't you?"
"Of course I do, but it's in the town tool shop you know. Anyone could make it. Elinor could make it and she can't even bake a cake!"
"Are you going to sell it to me or not?" Marin asked.
"All right, all right. Sit down. It'll take a few minutes to make."
Marin sat down on Tracy's bed. She watched for a moment as the older girl pulled a box of various herbs and spices out from under her table. It looked as though Tracy had simply taken all her things and thrown them in. Disorganization was actually the theme of the entire hut. Dresses were thrown over chairs and the ends of the bed, dozens of half read books were littering the floor, and there was paper virtually everywhere.
"Why were you thinking of me?" Marin inquired after a moment.
Tracy looked up. By this time she had found what she was looking for and was busy using her stone to grind the purple frond into a fine powder. "I saw Kurt in the village last night."
Tracy frowned. "Oh? I thought you'd be more excited than that."
"I know he's here. I saw him in the library."
"Aren't you ecstatic?"
"It's been three years Tracy."
"What are you saying to me? Marin, you were in love with him. You would have given yourself completely over to him if he had asked."
Marin sighed. "I wanted to be his, but he left. He didn't have the courage to stay."
"Well, what were you expecting? A hero? Kurt is just a man." Tracy started putting much more effort into her work as she spoke. "Men are men. You can't expect them to be more. So Kurt wasn't brave enough to stand up to Tarin? Your father can be a very intimidating man. Richard would hesitate before crossing him."
"I'm not upset about his interactions with Tarin in the past," Marin said. "What bothers me is that he left. Flirtation is something wonderful, but the man who will always prove himself worthy is the one who stays no matter what happens. That is the man with courage."
"How do you expect to find such a man?" Tracy asked, easing up on her work when she realized that she was close to breaking the table.
Marin looked down at her hands. "Maybe I already have."
Tracy dropped the stone. She looked at Marin, or more precisely, at the top of Marin's head. "No," she whispered, a huge smile spreading across her face.
She turned her face up, meeting Tracy's eyes. A tiny grin appeared. "I love him Tracy, I really think I do."
Tracy stood up from her workbench and walked over to the bed. She sat down next to Marin and placed her hand over both of Marin's hands. "That's wonderful Marin." She paused. "In fact, that's the most amazing thing anyone has ever told me."
"Please, don't tell anyone, especially not Tarin."
"Tarin adores Link. He'd be thrilled."
"Or he could suffer a broken heart as he did when I told him I loved Kurt."
"Kurt's got nothing on Link," Tracy said firmly.
"It's all so awkward though," Marin continued with a small sigh. "There's so much about me that he doesn't know. And there's so much about me that he thinks he knows."
"Everything worthwhile is difficult at first," Tracy said. "That's the fun of it." She laughed. "And somehow, it's poetic that you, the girl who dreamed of another world, should fall in love with an outsider."
"Poetic. Still the questions remains, what do I tell him about Kurt?"
"The truth," Tracy replied. "If Link loves you, he won't care about Kurt one way or the other."
Marin smiled. "Do you really think so?"
Tracy nodded. "I know so. Listen, this weed whacker you asked for is a little bit more complicated than I thought. Why don't you come back in a few hours and I'll have it ready for you?"
"All right." Marin stood up and headed for the door. She stopped abruptly and turned over her shoulder, looking at Tracy. "Tracy, don't tell anyone?"
"I promise," Tracy said, putting a hand over her heart.
Marin walked out, leaving Tracy alone again. She sat back down on at the worktable, humming now, as she got back to grinding the purple herb. Somehow, she felt as though she had known about Link and Marin, even before they did.
The door to her shop burst open. Carry ran in, his bare feet padding against the wooden floor. "Tracy! Have you seen Little Marin?" he asked, breathing rapidly.
"She was just here, why?"
"Tarin is hurt real bad," he answered.
"I don't know. Matilda just told me to find Little Marin."
"Well, she left."
"Where did she go?"
Tracy shrugged. "I don't know."
Carry nodded. Without another word, he ran out the door, slamming it shut. The entire hut shook for a moment, and then things settled down. Suddenly distracted, Tracy picked up a bottle of a thick red liquid. Grabbing a mismatched pair of shoes from the piles on the floor, she took off, heading for the Mabe Village.
"Kurt!" Richard stood up on top of a rock ledge, just south of the library. Kurt, who had been making his way to the beach stopped abruptly, turning around to see him.
"I'm busy Richard," he growled, holding his arms stiffly at his sides.
"What was that back there?" Richard asked.
"Tarin is insignificant."
"You're not going to win her back by pounding her father's face into a wall," Richard declared.
"Oh no?" Kurt began walking up the sand to Richard's rock ledge. "I got your attention, didn't I? But then again, you don't matter. You're insignificant as well."
"What's gotten into you?" Richard asked, his eyes widening in surprise.
"Nothing's gotten into me. But something's ready to come out." With that, he pulled his right hand back and smashed Richard's jaw with a powerful backhand. Unprepared, Richard flew off to the right, landing on his side on the rocks. Kurt walked over to him, kicking him in the ribs. Richard pulls his knees to his chest, squeezing tightly into the fetal position.
"What are you doing?" Richard coughed, looking at Kurt in shock.
"Making up for the years that I had to waste listening to you prattle!" Kurt stepped back, holding his hands out to either side, his fingers curled upwards. Inside of his palms, two balls of light appeared, swirling and crackling with green energy.
As Kurt threw his head back, his curly blond hair turned white, lengthening down to his shoulders. His skin slowly began to crawl, transforming into a series of crimson scales. The bottom of his pants snapped as a long, pointed tail curled outward. He opened his mouth, howling with glee. Richard looked up, catching a glimpse of a row of pointy yellow fangs.
"I'm going to enjoy this very much!" Kurt growled, his voice lower than before and more bestial.
"Save it Ugly!" Link's voice came out of nowhere. Instantly, the Hylian boy appeared from a higher rock ledge, slamming his boot into the monster's face. Kurt fell backward as Link jumped down onto Richard's ledge.
"Your timing is improbable," Richard muttered. His eyes rolled back into his head and he fainted.
Kurt smiled, "I was really hoping it would be you," he grumbled. Throwing his hands out to either side, he extended two sets of long black claws.
"I cater to the demands of the people," Link replied with a cocky smile. He withdrew a plain dagger from his left glove.
Kurt looked at the unimpressive weapon. "No sword?" he asked. Suddenly, he threw his arm, the claws aimed at Link's throat. Link ducked and jumped back, looking up. Kurt had knocked the cap off his head. The monster smiled. "Cake."
Link tossed the dagger from his right hand to his left hand. "Don't under estimate me."
"Don't over estimate yourself boy!" Kurt barked. He threw his weight back, supporting his entire body with his right hand. His legs kicked up, nailing Link in the jaw.
Flying backward, Link slammed against a rock wall. He tried to regain his footing, but as he stumbled back toward Kurt, he tripped over Richard and fell on his face in the dirt. Thoroughly enjoying Link's misfortune, Kurt now on his feet, leaned down and pulled Link up by the collar of his green tunic. "Watch that first step." He pulled his arm back and slammed the heel of his palm into Link's nose. "It'll kill you!" Kurt jerked his knee up, impacting Link's chest. He released Link, letting him fall to the floor again.
"What are you?" Link asked, wiping a tickle of blood with the back of his hand.
"I'm no Ganondorf Dragmire," Kurt replied. "I'm something much, much scarier."
He pulled his foot back and was about to kick Link in the head when a voice, out of nowhere cried, "Nothing is fearful when the virtue of courage surrounds this island."
Kurt yelled in agony, clamping his hands down on his ears. "Silence!" he roared.
"Go back to the darkness you came from," whoever continued.
The voice seemed to be hurting Kurt. "This isn't over yet!" he shouted, pointing a long claw at Link. With a puff of smoke, Kurt vanished.
A bright, blinding light flared up in front of Link. He lifted one arm, shielding his eyes, but he was certain the light was so bright he could see the bones in his arm through his own skin. Feeling a gust of wind race against his face, Link lowered his arm. To his surprise, Valerie was standing in front of him, looking placid as always. In fact, everything about her looked ordinary…except for the enormous white wings on her back.
"V-Valerie?" Link stammered, slumping against the rocks.
"I thought you might say that," she said with a smile. She leaned over, offering Link a hand. Carefully he took it. As she lifted him to his feet, all the pain in his body seemed to melt away, leaving him feeling energetic and somehow more alert. "You handled yourself well, considering you were unarmed."
"Unarmed?" Link sounded offended.
"Where's the Master Sword?" Valerie asked, folding her arms.
"Hey, hey, hey, if anyone should be answering questions here, it's you, not me."
"Fine, what do you want to know?"
Link frowned for a moment. "What was that thing?"
Valerie looked surprised. "That was a Nightmare."
"So it's true?" Link asked. "They really do exist?"
"Yes." Richard started groaning. Both Link and Valerie looked down at him. He was just starting to push himself off the ground. Daintily lifting her white skirt up with one hand, Valerie slammed her foot into the base of his skull. Richard dropped like a rock, out cold. "You have to stop him. He's going to go after Zelda."
Link blinked a few times. "What are you?" he asked finally.
"The Angel of Farore, now go!" Valerie pointed north.
Link started running, scrambling up the slick rock face with his beaten up dagger tucked under his arm. When he got to the top, he began to sprint, using all his senses to detect Zelda. He turned back over his shoulder as he ran, calling to Valerie, "This isn't over yet! I have a lot more questions!"
As Link disappeared over the horizon, Valerie closed her eyes. A swirling mass of ether surrounded her and her wings disappeared. She knelt down beside Richard and slipped her hands around his shoulders. "Come on Richard," she muttered to the small of his back. "It's going to be a long haul back to your villa."
Splash. Another rock fell into the pond. Splash, splash, splash. Zelda continued hurling stone after stone into the water, never allowing the glossy surface to come to rest. As she threw them, she began naming them after her troubles. "Richard," she muttered, tossing a pebble in. "Koholint." She threw another rock. "Kurt." She tossed a large, flat stone into the water, but it bounced, skipping across the lake to the other side.
Sighing, she dropped the rock in her hand that she was ready to name after herself and sat down on the edge of the water. For a while, she watched the ripples die until the pond became like a giant mirror. She looked down at her own reflection. Her hair had fallen to the side, leaving one ear open and exposed to the eyes of the world. Carefully, she pulled a lock of red hair back over it. She wasn't ashamed of her heritage, but she wasn't ready to have Richard walk over and see her secret. It was a strain, having a secret so concrete. She knew that Tracy's secrets were emotional and couldn't be seen. It was more difficult to hide a physical trait.
A frown spread over Zelda's lips. Her thoughts drifted back to Valerie. In all honesty, she hadn't yet been able to come to terms with everything she had learned. The accusations Valerie had made about her lack of faith had been all too true, up until a few weeks ago. For now, Zelda did have faith. Faith in Link.
"A vision of loveliness," someone said. Zelda looked into the water and saw a reflection of Kurt in a navy cloak approaching her.
"What?" she asked turning around to greet his handsome eyes.
"The only thing more beautiful than Marin," he said, squatting down next to her, "is two." He gestured grandly toward her reflection in the pond.
She noticed that a large, swollen bruise was forming on his chin. "Have you been brawling?" she asked.
"What?" He touched his chin. "Oh, this. I fell off a ledge."
"And did this ledge take your wallet?" she asked.
"Of course not." He sat down next to her now. Slowly, he began to drape his arm over her shoulders. Quickly, she stood up, moving a few paces down the shore. "Marin?"
"Kurt," she said evenly. "I've been thinking about what you said back in the library. What you said about starting over again."
"What about it?" he asked, sitting up straight.
She sighed. "Kurt, I can't."
"I can't start over again. Too much has changed."
"What's changed?" Kurt asked, sounding as if he were laughing.
"Everything! It's been three years Kurt." She sighed, walking around the circumference of the pond.
Kurt stood up. Slowly, he began to follow her. "It's that outsider, isn't it?"
"What's he done to you Marin?"
"Done to me? What are you talking about?"
"He's changed you, I can hear it in your voice."
"He hasn't changed me," she insisted.
"You once told me that you would do anything for love," Kurt said. "Anything but disobey Tarin. Starting over is our best shot, but you're telling me you can't do that? What happened to anything for love?"
She nodded slowly. "My philosophies haven't changed Kurt. I would do anything for love."
"Then what are you saying?" Kurt had made his way to the other side of the pond and stood face to face with Zelda.
She drew her spine straight and looked into Kurt's eyes. "What I'm saying, Kurt, is that I don't love you."
"You don't mean that," he said quietly.
"Yes, I do. I loved you once but that was a long time ago. You left and I had to move on with my life."
Kurt put a meaty hand on Zelda's shoulder. "You're in love with someone else," he declared. Slowly, he began to curl his fingers, digging into Zelda's skin.
"Kurt, you're hurting me."
"Who is it?" Kurt ignored her complaint. "Is it that outsider? I swear, I'll tear him to pieces."
"Kurt, let go of me."
"How could you love someone who looks like a bat?"
Zelda pushed Kurt's elbow with her right hand, throwing his hand off her shoulder. She started to turn to walk away, but he grabbed her arm, pulling her back. "Stop it!" she cried, struggling to pull free. His grip was like iron and somehow, Zelda couldn't ever remember him being so strong.
"I'll kill him! It's all his fault, he turned you against me, not the old man."
"Let go of me!" Zelda attempted to spin counterclockwise, a maneuver Link had taught her, but Kurt tightened his grip, nearly cutting off the circulation in her arm. He drew her close, so close that his nose was inches away from her face. She could feel his hot breath on her cheek.
"You belong to me," he hissed, his eyes wide with near madness. "You said you would always be mine!"
"She changed her mind." Link had appeared from the lush trees. Seeing Kurt with Zelda caused his face to flush and it took every fiber of his being not to charge directly at Kurt, risking harm to Zelda in the process.
"You!" Kurt snarled, turning Zelda and pressing a hand against her collarbone so that her back was flushed up to his chest. "You did this to her!"
"You're really not a big fan of freewill, are you?" Link started to move in, but Kurt yanked Zelda back and withdrew a sword from under his cloak. He pressed the blade to her neck and in the sunlight, a gold set of three triangles shined brightly. "No…" Link whispered.
Kurt laughed. "Recognize this Hero? You think you are so wise, but you are naïve. You will learn. Are you ready for your first lesson?"
Zelda's eyes widened. "The voice! In the woods last night." Kurt pressed the blade harder against her throat, but she continued in a hoarse voice, "it was you who separated us."
"You're the one that tried to kill us last night! I remember!" Link's hands curled up into fists so tight that his knuckles began to turn white.
"Don't get cocky." Kurt grabbed a handful of Zelda's hair and yanked her head to one side. He placed the blade of the Master Sword against her cheek and began to slide it upward toward her ear. "You Hylians disgust me. It will be a pleasure to watch you die Hero." He lowered his face until his lips were hovering above Zelda's ears. "Don't worry Marin, once he's out of the way, I'll make you like a goddess and together we'll watch these miserable Humans whither and die. But first, I'll have to make you look normal. We'll start with the ears."
"Like a goddess?" she asked, breathing rapidly as she felt the cold metal rub against her skin. "I think Hylian is good enough for me." Suddenly, the sword flew out of Kurt's hands. It hovered for a moment in the air, turning so that the handle faced Link, then it slowly dropped into his waiting hands.
"What?" Kurt screamed, throwing Zelda down to the ground.
Link grinned. "Hylian telekinesis," he explained. "Nice job Zelda."
She smiled, "I had an excellent teacher." Turning to look a Kurt, she was caught in horror. He had transformed back into the hideous creature Link had seen him as earlier. Fighting not to scream, she crawled back.
Kurt looked at her. Seeing the horror in her eyes at the sight of his true face, he screamed. Turning away from her, he summoned the same electric fog that he had used the night before and disappeared with a loud sound, almost like a clap of thunder. All that remained where he had stood was a singed patch of grass in the shape of two feet.
Link threw the sword to the ground and ran over to her. "Are you all right?" he asked, offering her a hand and pulling her back onto her feet.
"I'm fine," she muttered.
"He ran away the second you teleported the sword to me. He had those killer claws, he could have done a lot of damage."
"Claws…yeah…" Zelda was shivering, despite the bright sunshine.
"Are you all right," he asked, "really?"
"I'm fine." She laughed a little. "Considering the fact that my former lover just turned out to be a hideous monster who only seemed to fear one thing, your sword."
"That's it! He knows about Hylians, so he must know that the Master Sword is the sword of evil's bane."
"Meaning, it might be the only thing that can hurt him."
"I'm beginning to thing that there isn't a single person on this island who doesn't know our secrets."
Zelda frowned. "Now that you have the sword back, you can hurt him. I suppose it would be too hopeful to suppose he's just vanished for good?"
"More likely he's resorting to plan B."
Zelda's eyes widened. "A hostage."
"We have to get back to the village!" Link cried, grabbing the Master Sword.
"It may already be too late."
Link tossed Zelda his dagger. "Now for the one million Rupee question: Who would he take hostage?"
Catching the dagger, Zelda started running, slowly so Link could keep up with her. "I'm afraid I already know the answer to that one."
As Valerie shut the door to Richard's villa, she felt a cold gust of wind rush upon her. She turned away from the door and saw the beast approaching. Seeing her, he reared his ugly head back, his long white hair flying in every direction. Of course, Valerie knew exactly who and what he was, but even so, she felt a twinge of fear creep up from her chest.
"I've been expecting you," she said, stepping away from the villa.
He stopped short, tilting his head to one side. "Oh really?"
"From the moment the Link landed on the shores of Koholint, I've been waiting for you and yours to make your first move. I'm almost disappointed you took so long."
"How do you know about us?" Kurt growled. He began moving in a circular path around Valerie. Showing no fear, she circled as well.
"You have no idea what kind of power I represent, but I know exactly what you are and what you mean to do."
"So, you're the mysterious source." He growled, swiping at Valerie. Deftly, she ducked under his talons and took a step back. "I knew someone was helping the Hylians, but I never would have suspected you, little Valerie with her sweet and innocent outlook. I should have guessed it."
"You know about Hylians?" Valerie asked, her eyes widening.
"There is nothing on this island that is a secret to the Nightmares, nothing now that I know what you are."
Valerie's hands crept back toward a bag strung to the belt of her dress. "Your omnipotence will be no match for the Hero of Time and the Princess of Destiny. They will defeat you."
"And why's that?" Kurt hissed.
"Because a power greater than the Nightmares will see to it."
"Perhaps," he replied, taking a bold step in Valerie's direction. "But you'll never know. You're coming with me."
"No!" Valerie threw a handful of magic powder from her bag into Kurt's eyes. He flew backward, rubbing his face, trying to dust all the powder away. "Tell me Kurt, how does it feel to be an inferior for a change? You poor lost lamb."
"I'll tear you!" Kurt lashed out with his tail, wrapping it around Valerie's feet. Swiveling his hips, he dragged her to the ground. After placing a large, clawed foot on her stomach, he leaned over to drive his claws into her throat. Suddenly, a large rock smashed into his head. He tumbled to the ground and sat up quickly, seeing Link and Zelda race in from the north. Zelda lifted her hand and the rock lifted up from the ground and slammed directly into Kurt's face.
"Three against one?" Link muttered, "It hardly seems fair." He drew the Master Sword and stood on guard.
"I'll kill you all."
"That's funny coming from a guy who's on the ground," Link countered.
"I see we've reached the witty banter portion of the fight, can we please just skip to the –" Kurt was interrupted by Zelda who telekinetically lifted the stone and again let it fall on top of Kurt's head. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but they'll never kill me," Kurt said. He balled up one hand into a fist and promptly slammed it down on top of the resting rock. Instantly, the stone shattered into dust and Kurt stood up, brushing himself off.
"No, but this will." Link charged forward, throwing the Master Sword forward. Kurt lifted his elbow and threw Link to one side. The boy toppled over somersaulting to his feet. He stumbled, trying to regain his balance and Kurt took advantage, kicking him in the shin. Link fell over, just managing to retain his grip on the sword. He landed next to Valerie. As Kurt came closer to do more damage, she removed a handful of powder from her sack and threw it at Kurt. He jumped back, managing to escape the burning sensation of the concoction.
A sudden burst of pain caused him to turn around. Behind him, Zelda had thrown the dagger. He felt something cold trickle down his leg and looking at the grassy land beneath his feet, he saw his own tail lying limp on the ground, detached from his body. Roaring, he ran at Zelda, his claws flying. She lifted her hands and much to her surprise, as well as to Kurt's surprise, he lifted into the air. Running on nothing, he was completely stalled, hanging.
"My how you've advanced," he purred. With a snap of his fingers, he teleported to the ground behind Zelda. He grabbed her shoulder and spun her around. "I knew that outsider had changed you." Kurt wrapped his fingers around Zelda's necklace and was about to yank it off when a blinding light came from behind her, causing him to release her and stumble back.
Zelda turned around. Valerie had gotten to her feet and it was from her that the light was emitting. When it died down, as Zelda had expected, two white wings were mounted on Valerie's back again. Link was blinking madly. "From now on Val, you warn us before pulling that trick," he muttered, crawling to his feet.
Kurt, regaining his bearings, stalked up behind Zelda and clapped his hand over her mouth, placing the other hand at her throat so his talons pierced her skin. She stomped down on his foot and turned counterclockwise, the maneuver working this time and allowing her to break free from his grasp. "Get behind me," Link called out to her. Nodding, she moved behind Link, rubbing her neck.
"This is growing tiresome," Kurt growled.
"So do something about it," Link countered, standing at ready with his sword.
Kurt started running at Link and Zelda, a trail of black blood behind him. He spread his fingers wide, all five claws pointed directly at Link. Valerie moved in between them and jutted her foot into Kurt's path. He tripped over her, stumbling blindly. With a snarl, he crashed directly into Link, both of them tumbling to the ground. Zelda jumped back, a look of surprise on her face as she saw the blade of Link's sword sticking out from Kurt's back.
Link himself seemed surprise, gasping hard for breath; he pushed Kurt, rolling him off of the sword and onto his back. His green tunic was splattered with blood, some of it red, most of it black. Carefully, he sat up, looking to his side where Kurt was flailing wildly, looking up into the clouds. A dark smoke was streaming out of Kurt's wound, filling the air with a foul stench.
"I…" Kurt struggled to form words. He rolled his head to one side, looking at Zelda. "I love you Marin," he whispered. A burst of light came from within Kurt. His body completely disintegrated leaving behind a tiny fairy that lay sleeping on the grass.
The three victors remained silent, save for the heavy breathing of both fear and relief. Zelda slowly reached over, offering Link a hand and pulling him to his feet. Suddenly, Valerie began laughing. Link turned to her with an incredulous look on his face. "What's so funny?" he asked her.
"All of this happened outside of Richard's villa," she said, "and he missed the entire ordeal."
"No!" Flame threw a large vase across the room, watching it shatter against the wall. The pieces fell to the orange tiles on the ground.
"Kurt has failed us," Iris muttered, leaning back in her chair.
"They were mere mortals!" Flame shouted, his anger manifesting itself in a series of bright flare-ups. "How could they have defeated him? He was our equal! Our brother!"
"It seems obvious to me," Catsy said, "that Kurt was correct about them. They do have a higher power driving them in our direction. If nothing else, his death proved that."
"How can you afford to be so blasé about this?" Hawke asked, narrowing his eyes at Catsy. "They'll come for you next."
"No," she replied, "I believe they'll come for Tail next."
"Kurt was loyal until the end," Iris murmured. "He did not betray us. The Hylians still have no knowledge of we Nightmares."
"They will soon enough!" Flame howled. "They didn't know Kurt was one of us, but soon they'll be in Tail's dungeon. Then they'll be free to see all they like."
"I'm already raising defenses against them," Tail said mournfully, "but it may not be enough."
"It's that blasted sword!" Flame screamed, "It'll be the death of all of us!"
"The one with the three triangles on it?" Hawke asked. "I had a bad feeling about it the moment I lay eyes upon it."
"We'll have to find out more about that symbol," Iris decided aloud.
"We did not anticipate that maneuver from Valerie," Catsy added thoughtfully. "Perhaps we should find out more about her. What power does she represent? How was she able to conceal her true self to us for so long?"
"This is unacceptable!" Flame roared, throwing handfuls of fire in all directions.
"Well, that's the mature way to deal with the situation," Catsy deadpanned.
Flame turned on her, his fiery eyes blazing with fury. "You! You encouraged Kurt to pursue the avenue. His blood is on your hands!"
"It was a unanimous decision to allow him to continue down his path," Catsy replied icily. "We all share equally in the blame."
"You were his advocate!"
"Perhaps you were blinded by your own steam Flame, because you didn't seem to realize that Iris was quite correct. Kurt did feel something for the Princess of Destiny. That was the reason he was defeated. He refused to make sacrifices."
"Do not lecture me on Kurt's failings!"
"Enough!" Iris screamed, slamming her fist on the railing of the balcony.
"Indeed," Hawke agreed, "Bickering amongst ourselves is pointless. It's counter-productive."
"Indeed it is," Catsy said standing up. "Therefore I will pursue my own avenues of investigation about the Hylians." She vanished in a puff of smoke.
"She had better not come crying back to us when they invade her dungeon," Face said bluntly.
"They will come, not just to her, but to all of us." Flame sat back down in his throne at the center of the balcony. "We face difficult times ahead. That boy was able to kill a member of our family. This truly is a fight we may lose."
"Kurt is dead," Gene whispered.
"He was young and stupid," Angelika declared.
"He was one of us," Tail countered.
"And what if they wake the Windfish?" Hawke asked. "What are we to tell him about the fate of our brother?"
Flame shook his head. "If they wake the Windfish, none of us will be left to tell any tales."
Carry was sitting in the rocking chair Tarin had built years ago. He rocked back and forth slowly, listening to the sound of the floorboards, as they protested under the strain of the rockers. Little Marin had been sitting at Tarin's side for hours, even while he slept, but Carry had finally come along and told her to take a break. It had been hard work convincing her to leave her father's side, but Carry promised her that nothing would happen if she took a short walk to the beach.
Tarin was sitting up in bed, reading a novel that Link had brought him. There was a large scar on his head from where Kurt had hurt him, but it was healing nicely, thanks to the help of Valerie and Tracy. Although Tarin was eager to get back to his daily routine, everyone had insisted that he remain in bed a week longer.
No one had seen or heard from Kurt since the incident. Most people figured that he had returned to Tal Tal Heights. Once or twice, Matilda had thought about going up there to give Kurt a lesson in manners, but Valerie had talked her out of it, telling her it would be better just to forget about him completely. Matilda finally agreed, figuring that if he wanted to turn his back on the Mabe Village, the Mabe Village would turn its back on him.
There was a knock at the door. Carry looked at Tarin who nodded. Carry stood up and lumbered over to the door, opening it. "Hey Carry," Matilda said, walking in. She moved to Tarin's bed and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "How are you doing Tarin?"
"Oh, I'll be just fine," he said, smiling bashfully. "Although I imagine it would be good for my health if I can go a few days or a lifetime without getting beaten around the head again."
"I don't think Kurt will be coming back any time soon," she replied, taking a seat on Marin's bed across the way.
"What did Richard say?" Tarin asked.
"Richard told me that he went out after Kurt, but he couldn't find him." Matilda shrugged. "Who knows what really happened between those two. If Richard had half a brain, he probably told Kurt to leave and never come back."
"Why did Kurt come here?" Carry asked suddenly.
Tarin looked up at Carry for a moment. Closing his eyes, he shook his head. "He wanted my blessing with Marin I suppose. I would never have given it though. He could have beaten me until all eternity, I still would have said no."
"Why is that Tarin?" Matilda asked.
Tarin smiled, opening his warm brown eyes. "How could I allow him to court my daughter when she already has a fine suitor?" He chuckled and turned back to his book.
Matilda met Carry's eyes for a moment. The two of them shared a gleeful smile. She then looked down at Marin's quilt. For a moment, she traced the stitching pattern with her finger, but suddenly, something on the nightstand caught her eye. Looking up, she saw an old dusty book. She picked it up and felt her heart skip a beat. It was the book that she had been looking for in the forest! Why would Marin have it?
"So there I was," Link continued, bounding a few steps ahead of Zelda to demonstrate. "My back was against the wall and there were five stalfos coming straight at me."
"I thought you said there were only two," Zelda muttered, laughing slightly.
"Like I said, there were seven stalfos coming straight at me. I couldn't run because I'm against the wall and the only door is behind the ugly bad guys."
"So what happened?"
"I swung my sword like this," Link demonstrated, fighting invisible enemies with an imagined weapon. "And one of their heads rolled onto the floor."
"You cut off its head?"
"No, I missed them completely." He paused, laughing at his own folly. "Tress had been following me, so she chopped off the sucker's head and the others all got scared and ran away."
Zelda shook her head, laughing. "Lucky for you there was someone watching your back."
"Yeah, lucky for me." Link grew quiet. He continued walking down the beach beside Zelda, but his story ended. "Zelda? There's something I've been meaning to ask you."
"Kurt…" Link frowned, trying to find his words. "He said he loved you before he died. I think he meant it. I was just wondering…"
"If the feeling was mutual?" Zelda asked, finishing his sentence for him.
Link sighed. "I love you Zelda, but if you –"
Zelda stopped, looking at Link. "Say that again," she ordered him.
"What you just said."
Link looked confused. "I love you Zelda?"
She smiled. "Link, that's the reason why I chose you. Kurt said, 'I love you Marin.' Who or whatever he was didn't know me for who I really am. You do. Never doubt that there will ever be room for anyone in my heart beside you." She leaned over and kissed him. Surprised as he was by this declaration, Link returned the kiss, putting his hands around Zelda's waist.
"I'm sorry if I doubted it," Link said earnestly. "And I'm sorry if for even a second I doubted your telekinesis. That was an amazing display."
She smiled, leaning her forehead against his. "I love you Link," she said quietly.
There was a noisy hoot. Link and Zelda backed away from each other quickly, Link dropping his arms. They turned together and saw Valerie walking down the beach. Ezri was perched on her shoulder, stoically gazing at the two of them with his amber eyes.
"Are we interrupting anything?" Valerie asked politely.
"No," both Zelda and Link said in unison.
"I wanted to give you both something," she said, stopping before them. "I think you earned it." She opened her palm before them. In it, she was clutching a gold key with a silver chain on top.
"What is it?" Link asked, taking it out of her hand and turning it over to inspect it.
"It's Tail Key. With that key, you'll be able to get into Tail Cave."
"What's in Tail Cave?"
"We're to face this Nightmare?" Zelda inquired.
"Yes, and seven others beside." Valerie paused, a pensive frown on her face. "I know you have many questions, and some of them will be answered in time, but all you need to know is that I'm here to help you, in my own way."
"I understand," Zelda said, nodding. "Well, I don't understand, but I know."
"Hyrule is not as far away as you think it is," Valerie promised. "But the legends are true. The only way you'll ever be able to leave Koholint is by defeating the Nightmares. Each one guards a Golden Instrument of the Sirens. Once you have all eight of the instruments, you'll be able to wake the Windfish."
Link put the key in his pocket. "Bring it on. Whatever they have to throw at us, we'll be able to take."
Valerie smiled. "I know."
Zelda looked at him. "It's all a matter of faith," she said finally.
"Faith, trust, and Molly's dust," Valerie replied, patting the bag of powder on her hip. "I know I misused your trust Zelda, and I apologize. But you yourself once said that the best secrets are the ones that are eventually told."
Zelda shrugged. "The more the merrier I guess."
"Yeah," Link agreed. "Now there are three of us working together instead of hiding from each other." Ezri hooted loudly. "Make that four of us." Ezri seemed satisfied with that.
Valerie laughed. The same blinding light enveloped her again. When it dissipated, both the girl and the owl were gone, leaving Link and Zelda alone again on the beach. "Do you think we'll actually be able to do it?" Link asked Zelda.
"I have faith in you Link," she replied, taking his hand with one of hers. "All nightmares have to end, it's just a matter of Time."
Link laughed. He spun around quickly, grabbing Zelda's other hand. He began dancing across the beach, nearly dragging her along with him. She threw her head back, laughing as they turned, her hair whipping Link in the face. He smiled, leading her in a zigzag pattern, back and forth over the place where the ocean met the shore.
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