Chapter 1: In the Wake of Dreams
Link cautiously approached the remains of Ganon’s Tower, his boots crunching down on brittle remnants of stone. The once-great structure was reduced to a pile of broken pillars and rubble, clouds of dust still hanging in the air, hazy curtains against the tortured sky. The eerie howling of the wind filled the silence--and the hearts of all who heard it--with dread.
Seconds stretched into eternity as Link neared the shattered stones. It seemed years since he had fled for his life from the collapsing tower, and ages since he had battled Ganondorf. Time slowed, stilled, an uncomfortable experience that felt... familiar. He could not say why; it just was.
The largest pieces of stone were gathered roughly in the center of the ground Ganon’s Castle had stood upon only minutes before. Link eyed them askance as he drew closer, his body twisted slightly so he could turn either direction swiftly. Placing each step with extreme care, he edged forward, ready to flee if anything happened.
Without warning, Ganondorf burst from the rubble, his tattered cape fluttering wildly as he stared at Link with eyes that burned an insane orange. Backing away, the Hylian watched as the symbol of the Triforce blazed with an intense light on the back of the Gerudo’s right fist. Crying out like a wounded animal, he began to change. Link gaped in horror at the monstrosity towering over him, the huge blue beast with curling horns, clawed hands, and a tail, sniffing the air with his long snout.
“Oh Din, oh Nayru, oh Farore,” Link breathed. He turned, intending to run, but a ring of fire sprang up, trapping him with Ganon. Instinctively, he reached for the hilt of his sword.
It was not there.
Desperately, Link threw himself behind a pillar propped up on another. An ominous pounding vibrated through the ground, and he peered warily over the stones to see Ganon approaching with menacingly slow steps, a hunter stalking his helpless prey. Eyes filled with hatred and uncontrolled fury, he drew two matched blades, each the size of a grown Hylian.
Fear clawed at Link’s heart like never before--he had no way to fight. “Navi!” he whispered urgently.
Ganon’s hoofed feet crashed to the ground as he inexorably drew nearer.
“Navi, please!” Link cried desperately.
No flutter of wings. No comforting words.
With a snarl, Ganon swung a sword at the pillar. Link rolled out of the way just as the weapon connected with the structure. The heavy blade smashed through the stone with ease, shards of rock flying through the air.
Link crouched behind a relatively intact stone block, his chest heaving as he gulped air into his mouth greedily, his heart hammering against his ribcage. He did not know what to do, unarmed as he was, and terror slowed his thinking. But Navi would know; Navi could figure it out.
Where was she?
“Never did fight fair, did you?” a mocking, childish voice rang out. “Two on one, shame!”
Peering through the flames, Link discerned a mask with sinewy arms and legs, a single eye perched atop it. He recognized it, of course--Majora’s Incarnation. The thing began capering madly, chortling with insane glee.
“You’ll find it’s a lot different evenly matched, yo tup tup!”
Link opened his mouth to utter a retort when a huge sword crashed into the block he hid behind. Flying through the air, he landed on his front, completely winded, every inch of his body aching. Sprawled out, Link gathered his energy and rolled over on his back, prepared to do only Nayru knew what. But as he watched Ganon’s terrible rage-contorted face loom over him, a thought crossed his mind.
Where’s Zelda? I saw her make it out of that collapsing tower! She opened the way out!
Before he could do anything, Ganon reached out with a clawed hand and seized Link by his neck. He lifted the Hylian with insane strength and tightened his grasp, driving his sharp nails into the unprotected flesh. Gasping as he fought for air, Link struggled to free himself as the world swam before his eyes, his legs flailing desperately. His attempts grew more feeble as blackness pressed in upon his vision, and he knew with a certainty that he was going to die; there was nothing he could do. And the last thing he would hear would be the hooting and jeering of Majora’s Incarnation--
Link woke with a start as he crashed to the floorboards, completely drenched in sweat. Ripping the offending bed sheet from around his neck and tossing it on his mangled bed, he rose unsteadily. Walking over to a window, he threw it open and inhaled the crisp night air deeply. Stars glittered in the sky around a pale sliver of a moon, illuminating the nearby towers of
. Hyrule Castle
Sighing, Link turned around, his eyes raking over his small room. His bed stood against the wall opposite the door, the blankets torn off and strewn about. Beside it was a small night stand with an oil lamp on it, as well as a book and a letter. A cabinet stood against another wall, a washbasin beside it with a cracked mirror above. Two swords, a shield, and a bow leaned against the wall, indistinct in the darkness, and a quiver and spare cloak hung from pegs above the weapons.
Running a hand through his damp hair, Link sat on the edge of his bed and lit the lamp. For nearly eight years, his dreams had been plagued with nightmares that made him wake sweating and screaming. Back when he had lived at Lon Lon Ranch, Malon would sometimes comfort him after he awoke. But he had left, driven off by the desire to forget his so-called adventures in a search for a friend, left and stumbled upon Termina. A lesser person would have been driven mad by what he experienced there; sometimes, he wondered if he were a little insane. Unable to return to the ranch--unable to live closer to people than he had to--Link built a small house near the castle. It was too close to
for comfort, but he had to live reasonably near. Hyrule Castle Town
“It was just a dream,” he told himself. “Nothing more.”
He knew with certainty that it was just an ordinary nightmare. It was not one of those special dreams that stemmed from his second sight; those dreams possessed a different quality that he could always recognize, even if he could not always interpret them.
Link’s gaze strayed toward the letter lying on his night stand, folded neatly so that he could still see the spread-winged phoenix impressed in the broken sealing wax. Picking it up, he opened it. The penmanship was neat and flowing yet precise, easily legible, unlike his own scrawling hand. Bowing his head, he read it for the hundredth time.
I am writing this in case you return before I do. You see, I, too, am leaving. I had a dream in which a shining figure said something, but I could only understand one part--“Wisdom required is found.” Then the figure told me to go, to leave. You understand, of course, how fate can bind a person.
Do not worry. I will be fine. The Sages will watch over both of us. Indeed, Saria is extremely concerned with your well-being. I think her care might have caused you to receive some sort of protection or guide. As for me, I have powers most could not comprehend.
I hope that your journey is successful and that you return soon. Perhaps we can visit and talk about those lost days, about what could have been.
May the goddesses watch over you,
Link set the letter back down atop the book. It had been written nearly six years ago, and Zelda still had not returned. He wondered what had become of her. Oh, she was not dead; he would know the moment that happened. Still, it was disconcerting, not knowing the location of the only person to understand what had happened to him.
No one understood him, partly because of his upbringing, partly because of what he had been through. To be raised as a Kokiri without a fairy had been bad enough, but to learn he was Hylian had left him unsure of what he was. On top of that, he had traveled through time and seen Hyrule covered in evil, and even left the world to witness another on the brink of destruction. And, perhaps the most damning of all, he had transformed into other people, had seen their memories. He knew he would never view the world the same way again, especially since those memories mingled with his own, tangled and blended so thoroughly he could not tell which were not actually his.
I’m a Hylian, raised as a Kokiri, accepted by the Gerudo, who has been a Deku Scrub, a Goron, and a Zora. The thought made him laugh bitterly.
Link blew out the lamp and lay back down, drawing his blankets up from the floor and wrapping them around him. He stared at the ceiling a long time before sleep came.
Stripped to the waist, Link swung his sword, blocking imaginary blows with his shield. Pivoting, he lashed out with his blade, slicing the air. He dodged, stepping lightly, and struck nothing. Twisting, he back-flipped and slammed his sword downward. The blade plunged into the ground, half its length buried. Link yanked it free, tearing out a chunk of earth, and cleaved the air, nearly taking off the startled Malon’s head.
He dropped his sword in surprise, the gold-strengthened steel flashing in the early morning light. Placing a hand over his racing heart, he exclaimed, “Goddesses, you scared me! I nearly killed you!”
Malon smiled sadly, though she eyed the sword lying on the grass torn by boots moving in the intricate dance of swordplay. Absently pushing some of her rich red hair back over her shoulder, she said, “I’m sorry for interrupting your practice. You always become so concentrated.
More like caught up in desperate battles of old, Link thought wryly, brushing his sweat-dampened bangs out of his eyes. “It’s okay, Malon. I was about done anyway.” He smiled slowly, removing the shield from his right arm and setting it down. “What do you want? It must be important; it’s at least a day’s journey to
from Lon Lon Ranch, two days afoot.” Castle Town
He meant the comment to be slightly jesting, but worry clouded Malon’s blue eyes. “I.... I want to talk.”
Oh no, he pleaded silently, a dull blow striking his heart. No, Malon, don’t do this. “Do you want to come inside?” he asked aloud. “I can get you some breakfast.”
She hesitated. “I will come inside, yes. But I already ate breakfast. Thank you for the offer, though.”
Grabbing his shirt from where he had thrown it carelessly in the gray before dawn, Link pulled it over his head. He picked up his tunic and put it on, buckling he belt encircling his waist. Retrieving his fallen sword, he slid it into its scabbard, lifted his shield, motioned for Malon to follow, and headed toward his house.
The structure was in no way large or grand. Plain slate topped its four wooden walls, each side of the building set with two glass windows, yet it was all Link had to call home. Opening the front door, he let Malon enter first.
“Make yourself at home,” he said, shutting the door behind himself. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
“Oh, tea, if you have it,” she answered. She pulled a chair out from under the plain wooden table situated in the middle of the room and sat down, adjusting her plain woolen dress. Link could not help but notice the way it accented her curves.
Setting his equipment down against a wall, he walked over to the cooking range and stirred the fire, properly banked the night before. After a few minutes, he fed a few logs into the blaze before opening a cupboard and pulling out a battered tin pot and filling it with water from a bucket nearby. He set it on the range before digging out a battered wooden box containing tea leaves. He himself never drank tea, but he always kept some around since the previous year.
“How are things at the ranch?” he asked while he waited for the water to come to a boil.
“Oh, fine,” Malon replied. “Milk is selling well, as are Cucco eggs and the birds themselves, and the Lord Regent Sarn himself wishes to purchase one of our horses for himself. Not Epona, thankfully. She still distrusts anyone besides you and me.”
Link nodded, pulling a mug out from the cabinet. The Lord Regent Sarn, appointed to rule the kingdom until Zelda returned or ten years passed without word or sign of her, might be accounted one of the best horsemen in the land, yet Link doubted if he could even
. Thinking of the regent, Link scowled. It was not right, Hyrule lacking a ruler. Why was it that some things carried over from that alternate future, mainly the absence of the Sages and deaths? The whole Royal Family remained murdered save for Zelda, and of the Sages only Ruto had been seen in the past eight years, marrying a Zoran man and bearing a son before disappearing again. It made no sense. mount Epona
“So what horse did he choose?” Link inquired, taking the pot off the burner as steam escaped its spout in a whistling stream. He frequented the ranch enough to know most of the animals by name.
“Dancer,” she answered. “He bought Dancer.”
Pouring some boiling water in the cup, Link blinked, eyebrows rising in surprise. Dancer, so named because he often frisked and possessed a light step, was a sleek chestnut stallion with long legs. The only better horse was Epona herself. “I’m surprised you sold him.” He added some tea leaves to the water. “Weren’t you and Talon going to sire a whole line off of him?”
“We were,” Malon admitted with a sigh. “But, well, with what the lord regent paid us, we can buy five more stallions of good quality, or maybe one stallion of Gerudo stock.”
Turning around, Link shook his head. “Gerudo stock? Gerudian bred horses may be the best in the world, but you’ll never buy one. Gerudo never sell their horses; as soon get a Sheikah to dance inebriated in the town square. And those horses have fierce enough tempers to make Epona seem the sweet-tempered filly she is to us and only us.”
The slender woman shrugged. “People are allowed to dream.”
Not always. Sometimes, fate snags you before any dreams can take root, and then it’s too late. Grabbing the mug, he walked to the table and set it before Malon. He sank into the other chair, watching as she sipped the dark liquid before nodding in approval. He knew precisely how hot she preferred her water, exactly long she liked her leaves to steep. “Well, what do you want to talk about?”
Malon sighed heavily, bowing her head and staring into her tea. Gripping the mug in both hands, she closed her eyes and said softly, “I’m betrothed.”
Unsure if he had heard her correctly, Link asked, “You’re... getting married?”
She nodded, opening her eyes and staring at him somberly. “Father wants me to. He... he doesn’t want me to live alone. He wants me to have a husband.”
“Who?” Link asked.
“Jonan. He runs the potion shop in town.”
“I know him,” he said, picturing the smiling man with the shoulder-length light brown hair. “He’s older than you, isn’t he?”
“Yes,” Malon replied. “He’s four years older than me.”
“That makes him twenty-two.”
“I don’t mind,” she said defensively. “He already has a business set up, so money won’t be a problem, and Father thinks--”
“I don’t care what your father thinks,” Link cut in, gently prying one of Malon’s hands from around the mug and gripping it. “What do you think?”
“He’s a nice man,” she said simply. “Kind, caring, polite. But Father said that if I found someone I’d rather marry who was willing to wed me, I could marry him.” She glanced at him from beneath lowered lashes, an expectant light in her blue eyes.
She’s waiting for me to propose, he realized. She loves me still, and what I’ve just been saying makes it seem like I still love her the way I did last year. But I love her like a sister, now. Oh, damn it, what have I done?
“I’m sure he’ll make a fine husband,” Link said, squeezing her hand lightly. “I wish the two of you the best of luck.”
Malon blinked her eyes rapidly, slipping her hand out of his and sitting perfectly upright. “I.... I see. Thank you.” She rose, brushing the front of her dress. “I guess I’ll see you around.”
Standing, Link walked to her and placed his rough hand on her smooth, wet cheek. “I’m sorry,” he breathed.
She met his eyes. “I understand. Is there... someone else?”
“No.” Gently, he wiped some of her tears away. “There is no one for me.”
Her lower lip quivered, and her eyes shimmered. Suddenly, she flung her arms around him, sobbing into his chest. He smoothed her hair gently, holding her close.
“Never... forget me,” she gulped out. “Please.... No matter--what happens, never forget--me.”
“Oh, Malon, Malon,” Link whispered. “How could I forget you? You’re the only friend I have left now.” Poor girl, he thought. This is just like when Japas broke Mela’s heart.
After a few moments, they parted, Malon attempting a watery smile as she scrubbed at the tears glistening on her cheeks. “Look at me, sobbing like a little girl. I hope you visit me sometime,” she added, dabbing at her eyes.
“Of course,” Link replied. “And I hope you’ll still visit me as well.”
Malon glanced away swiftly, then rose on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek. “You were the first boy I liked.”
He grinned sadly. “Thanks for telling me.”
Leaving his arms, she simply stared at him for several heartbeats. “My first kiss was with you.”
Grin fading, he nodded. “Same here.”
“Well, goodbye,” she said, fiddling with the yellow kerchief around her slender neck. She gazed at him a moment, then headed for the door.
“Goodbye, Malon,” he said quietly as she shut the door behind her. “May you find the happiness I’ve been denied. Goodbye, and good luck.”
Glancing once at the still-steaming cup of tea, Link returned his sword and shield to his room. He propped them against the wall, alongside his other sword and his bow, and turned to leave, but then hesitated. His gaze slid to the cabinet, and he walked over and pulled the doors wide. Reaching down, Link pulled out a worn leather pouch. He opened it and upended it over his palm, and a pale blue ocarina fell into his hand. Cool to the touch, he ran his fingers over its smooth surface, wondering if it was metal, crystal, ceramic, or some other material he had never heard of before. A band of silver encircled the base of the mouthpiece, a golden Triforce embossed on it. Link stared at the instrument a moment before slipping it back into the pouch, handling it as though constructed of delicate porcelain. With care, he hung it from his belt, making sure it was secure.
Going back to the first room, Link placed the nearly full cup of tea on a counter so he would not have to look at it. Picking up a small block of wood and a carving knife, he sat at the table and settled to work, his hands performing the task automatically. Malon’s announcement startled him. He had always assumed she would wait for him to propose, and that would have had her waiting forever; his prospects were bleak, and he would not marry a woman he did not love with his whole heart. Therefore, he was happy for her, or so he told himself; Jonan would make a good husband.
As much as he repeated that to himself, Link still found his hands shaking as he whittled away at the wood. Could he have said no if Malon had grown tired of waiting, gone in the face of custom and tradition, and proposed to him? Would he have been too worried about hurting her, as he had hurt so many others?
Suddenly, his hand jerked, and he cut his right thumb. Dropping the wood and knife, Link stared at the red blood welling from the wound, slowly running down to his hand. Rising, he stalked out of his house, going behind it. He hardly noticed the splitting block with the hatchet in it standing by the pile of wood yet to be cut or the trees rising not that far away. He did not notice much, in his current mood. Turning, he faced the streets and buildings of
, busy despite the overcast sky that all but promised rain, and angrily shook his fist. Hyrule Castle Town
“You don’t understand me!” he yelled, his fury erupting within him. “No one does!”
“Hoo hoot! That’s no reason to blame them.”
Link whirled around and saw the large owl perched in a towering elm. As he walked toward the tree, the bird cocked his head, long, eyebrow-like feathers twitching. Puzzled and annoyed, Link called out, “What are you doing here, Kaepora Gaebora? You followed me around first in Hyrule, then Termina, even though my destiny lay only in being the Hero of Time!”
The owl puffed his feathers indignantly, his claws tightening on the branch. “You are the Hero of Time here within Hyrule and the One of Many Shapes in Termina.”
“I don’t want either!” Link shouted back. “I never did! Why can’t I just be normal?”
“Fate has chosen you.” Kaepora Gaebora gazed down at him with sympathy bright in his eyes. “Just as she chose me long ago. Fate is a fickle mistress; her attentions are not your fault.”
The Hylian glared up at the him. “Will you follow me everywhere, yammering on about fate and destiny?”
The owl nervously shifted from foot to foot. “Well, hoo, you see, I can’t leave Hyrule.”
“What? Why?” Link narrowed his eyes, suddenly suspicious. “Then how were you in Termina?”
“Ah, ahem, I will try to explain, but, hoot, you might not understand.”
Gesturing irritably, Link pinned him with a frozen stare. “Oh, go right on ahead. I understand more than I would like to, so chances are I should be able to grasp whatever you’re about to tell me.”
“There’s no reason to get snippy with me,” the owl protested, his feathers practically bristling. He seemed to wilt beneath Link’s impatient glare, however, and clacked his beak uneasily before starting. “Well now, hoo, there is a myriad of different worlds, each unique, though some are more similar than others. Oh, hoo, I started in the wrong place. Well, I will continue. The Sacred Realm and, hoot, the Evil Realm, being essentially one divine realm, encase all the others. In the very center of everything, there lies the Dream World, hoo, physical yet not, not touching the Sacred and Evil Realms but contacting all other worlds. The true physical realms are divided by light and shadow, and those that live in one side cannot touch the other without dire, hoo, consequences; it may not even be possible. Thought there is only one world of shadows, there are countless worlds of light, each unique. Now, hoot, imagine all those worlds as a piece of parchment, with a circle drawn on it, in the, hoo, center. That circle represents Hyrule. I cannot leave that circle. Now, picture this piece of parchment folded many times. Each layer is a separate and parallel world, but the circle appears on more than one layer, more than just true Hyrule. I can appear in the worlds that have the circle because, in a sense, they are Hyrule, different and parallel, yet part of the same whole.”
“Then what about people?” Link asked, crossing his arms. “How do they figure in? Because in Termina, some people looked exactly like people I know here.”
“Hoot, it is different for each person,” Kaepora Gaebora explained. “Some are, hoo, like drops of ink. They soak through some layers, but not all, yet they are a little different in each. But certain individuals, like yourself, are more like pen nibs. You see, nibs sometime rip through parchment, just as you ‘rip’ through worlds, so to speak. These nib people are unique and rarely have any reflection, rendering them alone in all the world.”
“Then is that what you do? ‘Rip’ through the worlds?”
Kaepora Gaebora appeared uncomfortable, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “No, hoo, what I do is more of a... a... well, a slide, I suppose you could, hoot, call it.”
“Who are you, anyway?” Link demanded.
“I am not who you would expect,” the owl answered cryptically. “But none of this is what I came here to tell you about. You must head to the
as soon as you can.” Templeof Time
“Why?” The Hylian glowered up at the bird, arms folded across his chest. “I refuse to take up the Master Sword again.”
“You will not need to. If you want to find the Way, the Key you need is where Leaves slay.”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“Just go to the
,” Kaepora Gaebora said. “Trust your heart.” Spreading his wings, he took off, winging west. Templeof Time
“Now what mad quest do I have to go on?” Link complained bitterly.
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