Shadowed Fate

By Farore769

Chapter 2: The Prophecy


Returning to his house only long enough to grab a dark green cloak from a peg just inside the door, Link donned it as he hurried down the gentle hill that lead to Castle Town. A light drizzle began as he reached the hard-packed road running from the castle to the settlement, and he tugged the hood forward to shield his face, though the heavy mist seeped through the fabric slowly.

            By the time he reached town, most people were indoors, either shopping or eating an early lunch, no doubt in an attempt to avoid the rain. A coach with an unfamiliar sigil lacquered on its pale violet doors rumbled over the cobblestones, the pair of matched black horses splashing through puddles, and an old woman with a deep bonnet covering her head continued walking along, carrying a tray filled with pins of all sorts. Upon spotting Link, she smiled and moved toward him, but he gave her a cold stare, and she scuttled away, slipping into the nearest store.

            Turning from the town square, Link climbed a series of age-worn low steps to the Holy Lawns, surrounded by tall hedges that, on a normal day, would mask the hum of the settlement so near. The Temple of Time reared overhead, massive and impressive, all straight lines and somber gray stone, its sides broken by tall windows with ornate frames in curls and straight lines. On either side of the entrance spread a large rectangular pool, supposedly for people to examine their reflections before entering the sacred place. Now, however, raindrops disturbed the surfaces in a steady bombardment, turning everything into smeared blurs of color. Link merely glanced at the water before heading up to the doors, open as always, and he entered.  

            Descending the stone steps, Link pushed his hood back as he gazed around in reverent awe. The last time he had been inside the temple, he had just laid the Master Sword to rest. Now, his eyes took in the gleaming tile floor and the red carpet running down the center of it, edged with golden thread. Up ahead, the onyx altar gleamed in the magically produced light, and the Spiritual Stones resting on it added their own illumination to the place, humming softly with the magic within their hearts. Behind the altar and slightly higher, a solid slab of stone stood out in the wall, a rising sun carved on it and the Triforce emblazoned above it. Further up, the enchanted light halted abruptly, leaving the ceiling shrouded in darkness.

            Link’s gaze returned to the slab of stone with the sun on it, staring at it almost hungrily. The Door of Time, he whispered in his mind. And beyond it, the Master Sword. The blade of heroes, the blade of the Hero. Why don’t I take it up again? This time, I will gain glory that everyone will remember. I will be written into legend, as anyone who wields that blade should be. And only I can.

            He reached to the pouch at his belt, to pull out the Ocarina of Time, but stopped. The prospect of fame and glory was seductive and heady, like aged wine, but he did not want glory, not really. All he wanted was to be normal.

            Head bowed, Link approached the altar, carefully keeping his hands at his sides. Being in the same building as the Master Sword was enough to override his senses, to infect him with the desire to draw it out of the Pedestal of Time. His boots broke the holy silence as they struck the floor, but the goddesses desired followers and believers, not silence. Focus on anything, anything at all, to keep my mind from what waits behind that door.

            Halting before the altar, Link gazed at its familiar shape. The three Spiritual Stones glowed beautifully against the onyx, each ablaze within, seemingly with the very light of the goddesses. Reverently, he sank to one knee, bowing his head and closing his eyes.

            “Come,” a voice whispered. “Come with me.”

            He opened his eyes in surprise, looking to see if one of the attendant priestesses--always there but never seen without good cause--waited beside him. He knew one would not be there; he recognized the voice. “Saria?”

            “Come. Please, come.”

            Rising to his feet, Link found his eyes locked on the Door of Time. He walked around the altar and up the steps, halting squarely before the sealed door. Glancing back, he stared in shock at his body, still kneeling. Puzzled, he faced forward again just as a pillar of blue light enveloped him. The light tugged him, pulled at him, led him upward, downward, right, left, forward, and back, all at once. The light shredded him, burned him, soothed him, protected him.

            Slowly, the illumination melted, leaving Link in a vast chamber of seemingly endless waterfalls of perfectly calm water. Tall shafts of illumination shed an even light over everything, yet the ceiling and bottom were darker than night, made the black cloaking the ceiling of the Temple of Time seem pale. Link stood on a Triforce of a firm, hard material, either metal or stone, and six circles surrounded him, each a different color and large enough for a person to stand on. Beyond the circles, the water slid over a sheer drop with hardly a ripple.

            As he looked around, Link suddenly noticed six robed and cowled figures waiting beyond the drop, standing on nothing. Their garments seemed misty, yet only shadow waited beneath them, obscuring any features.

            “Who are you?” Link called out.

            “Six of the seven Ancient Sages.”

            Link turned to the green circle and stared at the emerald-haired girl of twelve, her large blue eyes too somber for any child. She smiled sadly as she shifted her gaze to the mysterious people, watching them waver and vanish, as ephemeral as their robes had seemed.   

            “Kasuto, Ylin, Alinith, Shonnik, Evarii, and Naera,” she said, pronouncing each name distinctly. “Each gave his or her life to protect the Sacred Realm. Only one of the seven did not die, out of necessity. You know him as the Sage of Light, but he began as the youngest of the Ancient Sages.”

            Rauru knew those people? “Saria, why am I here?” Link asked aloud. “Why am I in the Chamber of the Sages again?”

            “You’re not really here,” she responded. “The gate is not open, so your corporeal self cannot enter. Only your spirit is present.”

            “Still, why is my spirit here?”

            The Kokiri girl sighed heavily, at once seeming centuries old despite her outward appearance of childish youth. “You know that Zelda is missing?”

            “Of course.” Link frowned. “Why? Has something happened to her?”

            “I... do not know,” Saria replied. “She has passed beyond anyone’s sight, even Nabooru’s. Without the Princess of Destiny, Hyrule will sicken and die. No outside foe can breach her defenses at the moment, but she will be torn apart from within. Already greedy nobles begin staking claims for estates here, with no regard for anyone or anything. In two years, Hyrule will cease to exist save in history books. But, even more importantly than saving Hyrule is saving her Hero and Princess. Without one, the other will fail.”

            Trying to comprehend the flood of information, Link paused. “So, you’re saying that if Zelda dies....”

            Saria closed her eyes and swayed. With those twin pools of sorrow hidden, he could almost view her as the child she appeared. “If Zelda dies, the Royal Family dies. That means no Princess will be reborn to face Ganondorf when he comes again. And without the Princess to help and guide him, the Hero will fail.” Her eyes opened, filled with pleading. “You must find her!”

            “Can’t somebody else?” he demanded, crossing his arms.

            “You are the only one. If even Nabooru couldn’t sense her, no one else has a hope save you.” She pointed at the Triforce beneath his feet. “There exists a... connection... between Triforce bearers. That is how Ganondorf was able to observe your exploits. Thankfully, the connection only works when the bearers trying to contact each other are in the same world. You and Zelda are safely shielded from the Great King of Evil.”

            Gaping at her for a moment, Link bared his teeth in a snarl. “You mean I’m connected to Zelda and Ganondorf by something more than fate? Why did no one bother telling me? And how come Ganondorf couldn’t observe Zelda?”

            “It is possible to pinch the connection shut,” Saria explained. “It takes conscious effort to use it, but one bearer can block the others from viewing them. This is a piece of lore known only to, surprisingly, the Gerudo. Nabooru explained it to us. That is how Ganondorf knew how to utilize it immediately after the connection between you three formed. Zelda, possessing such inherent magical skills only enhanced by the Triforce, felt the connection and snapped it shut between her and Ganondorf. But how did you think Sheik always knew where to find you?”

            Link was shaking, trembling at the implications. That whole time, that whole blasted time, he had been watched by two people! And he had known nothing! “And if I didn’t notice this connection before, how am I supposed to now?”

            “When you return to your body, search within your mind for a bond between you and Zelda. Concentrate on the Triforce, if you wish. You should be able to sense her unless she has left the world completely, in which case it may be too late for any hope. You must search her out at all costs.”

            “Great. More pressure.” He tossed his head angrily, then frowned. “But what does this have to do with finding the way and leaves?”

            Now it was Saria who frowned. “Link, what are you talking about?”

            “That’s what Kaepora Gaebora told me. ‘If you want to find the way, the key you need is where leaves slay.’ But what way? The way to use this connection?”

            An expression of astonishment covered Saria’s face. “Who told you that?”

            “Kaepora Gaebora,” Link repeated, growing impatient. “He’s an owl who guides me.”

            It’s part of a poem taught to Kokiri by the Great Deku Tree,” she explained, disbelief in her voice. “Well, he taught it to us before he died.”

            “How does the rest of it go?”

            Licking her lips, Saria spread her hands and closed her eyes before reciting:

                        “If you want to find the Way,

                          The Key you need is where Leaves slay.

                          When Borrowed Steel strikes Heart of Wood,

                          You will understand all you should.

                          Voices of Pasts shall speak once more,

                          Then will ne’er be heard evermore.”

            Once concluded, Saria opened her eyes slowly. Link waited for a moment, then asked, “What does it mean?”

            She shrugged. “No one knows. For instance, what Way do we wish to find? And where is the Heart of Wood? More enigma lies in those words, I believe, than in any prophecy in the Ancient Tongue. But you must find Zelda. The fate of Hyrule rests in the balance. Now go.”

            The chamber began to fade. Desperately, Link focused on Saria, trying to forestall leaving, at least for a few moments. “Will you be with me?”

            Pity crossed her face, pity and longing. “You would not see me if I did go with you. Trust your heart.” She raised a hand in benediction. If any true child had performed the gesture, it would have been silly and laughable. With her, it was solemn and fitting. “Return to your self.”

            This time, Link could not stop his vision blurring, could not stop the blue light encasing him once more. As he left, he heard Saria’s voice faintly, reciting a poem like the one she had told Link, though the words were different.

                        “If you seek to open the Gate,

                          The Key you seek is Shadowed Fate.

                          In the Secrets that lie beneath the Ground

                          Is where the Wisdom required is found.

                          To find the Third Force of Power,

                          First you must seek the Sacred Flower.

                          When the Three gather all in One Place,

                          Then you shall see the Sacred Ones’ Face.

                          On to the Realm through the Gates you pass.

                          Before you will stand a Magnificent Mass.

                          Three Stone Structures with Names familiar to you,

                          The Names of the Gods, Din... Farore... and Nayru.”


Link opened his eyes with a start, finding himself still kneeling before the altar. Standing, he stretched his cramped legs, eyeing the overcast light filtering weakly through the windows. Judging by it, almost no time had passed, yet he felt as though his legs had been bent for hours.

            “A connection, eh?” he muttered to himself. “Well, then, let’s see what this can do.”

            Closing his eyes, he plunged deep within his mind, ignoring memories and thoughts of how stupid he was to actually try this. Unexpectedly, his mental search found... something... leading away from his own awareness. He felt along it cautiously, part of him remaining with his body, the other part sliding along the... the... whatever it was. Abruptly, he ran into a barrier, allowing him to go no further. Retreating, he frowned. Was Zelda shielding her mind from his? At least she’s in this world... unless that barrier meant she wasn’t. But he had gleaned one thing from the connection--Zelda was in the south.

            “South,” he whispered, opening his eyes. Sunlight streamed in feebly. At least I won’t have to journey through rain; it seems to be breaking up, even though it was turning into a true downpour when I entered.

            He turned and started to leave, but something prompted him to glance back over his shoulder. A rolled sheet of aged parchment rested on the floor, its edges tattered. Curious, he walked back, squatted, and picked it up. Straightening, he unrolled it carefully, the paper extremely brittle. Flowing script curled gracefully over it in black ink, and he pursed his lips momentarily, finding it hard to read the flowery writing filled with unnecessary loops and swirls. After a few moments, he managed to decipher it, and his eyes widened in surprise.     

                          If you seek to open the Gate,

                          The Key you seek is Shadowed Fate.

                          In the Secrets that lie beneath the Ground

                          Is where the Wisdom required is found.

                          To find the Third Force of Power,

                          First you must seek the Sacred Flower.

                          When the Three gather all in One Place,

                          Then you shall see the Sacred Ones’ Face.

                          On to the Realm through the Gates you pass.

                          Before you will stand a Magnificent Mass.

                          Three Stone Structures with Names familiar to you,

                          The Names of the Gods, Din, Farore, and Nayru.

            “What gate?” he muttered to himself. “And what’s with poems with keys mentioned in them? None of this makes any sense. Well,” he amended, “perhaps this wisdom part means Zelda. In her letter she mentioned the ‘Wisdom required is found’ bit, but.... Is this a prophecy or something?”

            Unable to extract any answers, Link rolled up the parchment and stuffed it through his belt. Casting one last glance around, he left the Temple of Time, his cloak billowing out behind him.

            It seemed that during his time indoors, the rain had halted and people had returned to their errands. Once in the hustle and bustle of Hyrule Castle Town, Link threaded his way through the crowd, heading toward the potion shop. Women with cloth-covered shopping baskets bumped into him with blurted apologies, some men dodged around him, the hems of their cloaks dragging through puddles, and a few street hawkers attempted to interest him in their goods.

            “One sip, good sir, and all feelings of fear will be gone!” a balding man proclaimed, resting a sweaty hand on Link’s shoulder and displaying a tray filled with bottles containing brightly colored drinks.

            “Thank you, no,” he declined politely, trying to slip away.

            “Then a love potion?” the vender suggested, holding up a corked vial of some greenish liquid. “Any woman who drinks this will swoon at the mere sight of you, then fall readily into your bed!”

            “Erm... no, thank you, no.”

            Link managed to extricate himself from the man and push a soldier toward the hawker, who immediately pounced upon the armored man. In the press of bodies--quite considerable, since the rain had driven people indoors not long before--no one ever saw him shove the guard, and he slipped inside the potion shop before anyone could take note of him.

            Shelves full of boxes in various sizes covered the whitewashed walls, some of them adding to the musty odor pervading the store. A counter stretched the length of the room near the far wall, with more packed shelves behind it displaying everything from the commonplace--a jar of red potion--to the rare and unusual--a  violet Poe soul swirling in the confines of a large glass bottle, striving to free itself. Link eyed the angry spirit warily as its prison rocked while it fought for release, coming precariously close to falling off the shelf, before focusing on the tall man standing between the counter and the shelves absently drumming his fingers on the wooden countertop. Noticing Link, he straightened, crossed his arms, and smiled much too broadly.  

            “Hello, Link,” he greeted pleasantly. “What can I do to help you on this fine day?”

            “Yes, it is a fine day for you, isn’t it, Jonan?” Link replied, halting before the counter.

            The shopkeeper shrugged. “Not many people are lucky enough to marry such a lovely woman. The wedding is in three weeks; I’m sure Malon would be happy if you came. From what she tells me of you, you two are closer than most siblings! But listen to me talk your ear off! Is there anything you need?”

            Link scanned the wall behind the man a moment, shaking his head slightly when he saw a pink fairy trapped within a clear bottle, her light flickering dully as her wings beat lethargically. “Yes. I need fireroot, crushed lily petal, mage oil, and blue potion.”

            “Interesting list,” Jonan commented. “Still, I have everything, though the last will be expensive.

            “Just get it,” Link ordered curtly.

            The man bent down and drew out a sack the size of his two fists, laying it on the countertop. Rummaging around, he pulled out a smaller sack and set it beside the first. Standing, Jonan walked to a side wall, picking up a medium-sized vial. He stopped in front of a large cask and carefully tapped a pale lavender liquid into the glass container. He corked it before delicately placing it by the two bags. Jonan shifted a few crates, revealing a door leading into a back room, and disappeared through it. After a few minutes, he returned with a glass bottle filled with blue potion.

            “There you go,” he said cheerily, depositing the final item next to the others. “It comes out to two hundred fifty Rupees.

            “Two hundred fifty!” Link exclaimed. “That’s an outrage! One fifty.”

            Jonan shook his head, smiling ruefully. “Mage oil is far from common, and blue potions are expensive. Two fifty.”

            “I’ll not take it at that price. One fifty.”

            “No, I cannot lower my prices. I have a living to make, you know, and a wife to support soon; you would not want me to leave her impoverished, now would you?. Two fifty.”

            “Malon doesn’t need supporting; she’s rich enough that you wouldn’t need to work. And besides,” Link added eloquently, “crushed lily petal is quite common. It should cost next to nothing. Especially that small amount.”

            Jonan’s gaze flicked to the smaller of the two sacks. “Well....” He stroked his chin, obviously thinking. Behind him, the jar containing the Poe shook violently, burning eyes staring hatefully out from the roiling spirit. “I guess I could lower it to two twenty-five.”

            “One fifty,” Link insisted, slightly unnerved by the malicious soul emitting waves of palpable fury.

            Jonan raised an eyebrow. “Oh? You’re already getting the petals for free.”

            “So? Fireroot shouldn’t be that expensive. One fifty.”

            “Fine, fine.” The shopkeeper sighed heavily. “You drive a hard bargain. One ninety-five.”

            “I won’t take it for more than one fifty.”

            “Look, if you take it at one ninety-five, I’ll give you this waterproof bag for free.” Jonan reached down and held up a large rucksack sewn out of scarlet cloth with a strange sheen. “Made from that special Sheikah version of oilcloth, magically enhanced. It might or might not shield items from fire, but I guarantee that it will protect your gear from any wetness whatsoever.”

            Touching a piece of it, Link found his fingers unable to stay in one spot; they slid over its surface, somehow pushed along. He nodded and reached for the pouch at his belt containing his money. “One ninety-five.” He counted out the Rupees, setting them on the countertop.

            “Thank you,” Jonan said, sweeping the colorful gems into his hand before depositing them in an iron box. He placed all the purchased items in the rucksack before handing it to Link, who slipped his arms through its straps. “Have a good day.”

            Link paused, though, eyes locked on the Poe raging within its glass cell. Its hatred for the living beings so close infected him, but he let it slide off him, a trick learned long ago to spare his mind from insanity. “Why do you have that?”

            Turning his head, Jonan nodded. “Ah, yes, that devil. A few years ago, a woman ran in here, nearly hysterical, that jar clutched in her hands with the Poe inside. She kept babbling on about the hate it gave her, and how that hate frightened her. She caught it by accident, you see, washing out the jar. The Poe flew in there, and she capped it up before she realized it. Apparently, she knew it would kill her and whomever was around her when it was freed, and so she couldn’t release it. Yet, its fury grew stronger everyday, and she needed to get rid of it. I contacted a mage right away, and he sealed the jar firmly with magic. He said its rage would only touch those with magical powers of their own, now.”

            “You should get rid of it,” Link stated flatly.

             Jonan smiled and spread his hands helplessly. “But how? It will kill whoever frees it, and it becomes more murderous with each passing hour.”

            “Each passing hour, it comes closer to breaking free.” As if to punctuate his words, the jar wobbled. “Eventually, it will break free, and if it is here, it will slaughter everyone in Castle Town.”

            “Are you saying I should play the martyr and go to some isolated place and open the jar?” Jonan shook his head. “I pray that some mage specializing in death will come along and deal with it, but, of course, death magic is outlawed, ever since Auryth betrayed the Council of Mages and brought about the War of the Gold. Perhaps you’d like it? That, you can have for free.”

            Link shook his head. “I’ve had more than enough brushes with necromancy to suit my liking.”

            Nodding in agreement, Jonan said, “Oh, yes. Poes didn’t even exist till those ancient mages began experimenting with death, looking for some way to reverse it.”

            Turning to leave, Link paused just before the door. “Jonan, why don’t you release that poor fairy?”

            “The fairy? But what about those dying of some incurable illness? Release a fairy next to them, and they are healed! Not everyone can go out and catch them, you know.”

            “I used to carry fairies with me, in case I became mortally wounded,” Link said. “But, in saving yourself, you are practically murdering the innocent fairy. I stopped using them long ago.” With that, he opened the door and left the shop.

            Returning to the town square, Link’s gaze swept over the crowds of people in sensible clothes, and he noticed a lean boy creeping stealthily toward a food vender’s cart. Whenever someone so much as glanced at him, he relaxed, blending in perfectly despite his ragged appearance. Just another boy who had played a little too roughly--how innocent! The cart’s owner never saw him as he reached the display of wares, allowing him to snatch a steaming meat pie. Hiding his prize beneath his filthy, tattered shirt, the boy darted off to an alley, disappearing swiftly.

            Link walked to the entrance of the alley and peered around the corner. The boy sat next to a building and pulled the meat pie from under his shirt, beaming in pleasure. He bit into it eagerly, unaware of the meat juices dribbling down his chin until they landed on his hands, which he then licked off. A large wolfhound padded up to him and wagged its tail, eyeing the food.

            “No, girl,” the boy said, pushing the dog away with one hand. “Not yet. I’m hungry. You’ll get your half, but only when I’m done.”

            The hound whined and laid down, resting her head on her front paws. Occasionally, she cast the boy reproachful glances, but she let him eat in peace.

            Link took in the two at a glance. The boy was tall, but far too skinny, eyes unnaturally large in his gaunt face. The wolfhound’s unkempt coat defined her ribs perfectly. They were obviously starving.

            Clearing his throat loudly, Link entered the alley. The boy sprang to his feet immediately, holding his pie defensively. The dog stood and bared her teeth, a growl rumbling in her chest.

            “What do you want?” the boy demanded. “You gonna turn me over to the soldiers fer stealing?”

            “What’s your name?” Link inquired conversationally.

            “Don’t got none.”

            “Oh? What about your dog?”

            “She don’t got none neither.”

            “Why don’t you have a name?”

            The boy shrugged his narrow shoulders. “What good’s a name? You don’t exactly git fed when you have a name.”

            “You can learn about yourself if you have a name,” Link explained. “The Gerudo believe names give you direct control over your spirit.”

            “Well, ain’t that special?” the boy sneered. “If that’s so, then I guess my name is Cut.”

            “Cut?” Link took a step nearer, folding his arms across his chest and adopting an expression of genuine interest. “Why Cut?”

            The boy grinned cynically. “That’s all I do,” he explained. “I cut purses. I cut profits. If I’m seen, I cut and run.” Suddenly, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. “If you ain’t gonna turn me in, what d’ya what with me, huh? I don’t want none of yer sympathy.”

            Link regarded him calmly. “I was just curious, that’s all. Goodbye, Cut.” Turning, he left the alley and headed for his home, aware of the boy spluttering in surprise behind him.

            As the small house came into view, Link froze. Epona stood on the torn front lawn, cropping grass placidly. Her presence only meant one thing, and he did not want to contemplate on why that particular person had returned. Approaching the roan mare, Link whistled the tune known only to him and Malon. The horse stopped her grazing, raising her head and pricking her ears forward. He continued the song, and she whinnied joyfully, trotting up to him. Reaching up, he stroked her arched neck.

            “Oh, Link!” Malon exclaimed loudly, running toward him and only just halting before plowing into him. “I’m so glad to see you!”

            “Why?” he asked slowly, turning his gaze on her.

            She stared at him curiously, head tilted in a birdlike manner. “Why? I was afraid you were mad at me.”

            “What would make you think that?”

            “You didn’t answer when I came to your house the past three days,” she explained, twitching her skirts.

            Link froze, staring at her. I spent three days in the Temple of Time? “I’m sorry,” he said. “Why did you visit me?”

            “Well, when I returned to my inn to retrieve my things and get Epona, I realized I had forgotten to bring you your birthday present. I’m sorry it’s late; I only got it a week ago.” Reaching into a pocket on her apron, she pulled out a small cloth-wrapped object and pressed it into his hand.

            “You didn’t have to get me anything,” he protested. He was not even sure when his birthday really was; when Malon had asked him, he had picked a date at random.

            Wringing her hands, she said, “Oh, please, just take it. Please? I hope you like it.”

            Twitching the scrap of fabric aside, Link gazed down at a cloak pin, exquisitely made in the likeness of a sinuous two-legged dragon. A fine framework of gold barely thicker than cobwebs held the different pieces of enamel in place, most fiery red. Black enamel covered the head with its mane of glittering rubies, garnets, and hyacinth, and a glinting sapphire served as its eye. A sword, its hilt a rich violet, protruded from the creature’s narrow chest, the visible blade gleaming silver.

            “It’s beautiful,” Link murmured, slightly unnerved. The dragon was Volvagia, the weapon the Master Sword. “Where did you get it?”

            “Well,” Malon began, “I went to Kakariko Village to try to find you a present, but nothing struck my fancy. But then a Goron who was there offered to make me some sort of jewelry. I thought a pin for your cloak would be perfect, since you only have that circle of beaten iron, and I told him as much. So he took me to a cave close to the base of Death Mountain, his workshop, I guess. The walls were covered in skilled murals, but one held my attention. It depicted an enormous serpentine creature fighting you.”

            “Me?” Link exclaimed, surprised.

            Malon nodded. “No mistaking you. And you were wielding this beautiful sword with a silver blade and purple hilt. I pointed to the mural, and the Goron said, ‘Oh yes, Dragonslayer saved us.’ I asked him to make a pin of the dragon with a sword in it.”

            “Thank you,” he said quietly, thoughts racing through his mind. “It’s beautiful.” How had the Gorons remembered him slaying Volvagia when it had happened in an alternate timeline? Then again, why are the Sages all gone?

            Dimly, he remembered something from the previous year. For weeks, he had been unable to leave his home, sick, but not with any illness. Visions had assailed him, his exploits to save Hyrule from Ganondorf’s black rule roaring through his head till he curled up into a ball, wishing for death just so he could escape the images. Some had been stronger than others, including his killing of Volvagia. Perhaps those strong visions were yet imprinted in the minds of some, or had actually carried over the way the deaths within the Royal Family had.

            “Link? Are you okay?”

            Snapping out of his painful reverie, Link stared into Malon’s concerned face. Forcing his lips into a smile, he nodded. “I’m fine.” He patted Epona’s shoulder, and then an idea struck him. “Can I borrow Epona? I’m going on a journey. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, or where I’ll go, but it will be faster with a horse.”

            Malon laughed, not the carefree sound he had heard before, but a softer, richer, more solemn utterance. “Certainly. Sometimes, I think she prefers you to me.”


            Nodding, she stroked the horse’s nose. “Oh, yes, I think she does. Just take care of her. I love her dearly.”

            “I will make sure no harm befalls her,” he swore, carefully placing the pin in his wallet.

            “Well, if I’m leaving Epona with you, I had better start for home. Take care, Link Dragonslayer.” A thoughtful light entered her eyes. “The name fits you, I think.” With that, she turned and headed toward Castle Town, lifting her ankle-high skirts with one hand.

            Watching Malon go, Epona whickered and started after her. Link seized the roan’s bridle, whispering comforting words in her ear. When the woman finally disappeared from view, Link released the mare, and she simply stared toward town. He patted her neck, then took the reins in one hand. “Come on, girl,” he said cajolingly. “Come on, Epona.”

            She followed him as he led her behind his house, stepping lightly. Once out back, he hobbled her and loosened the girth straps of her saddle before removing the saddlebags. She began grazing, and he gave her one last affectionate pat on the back before entering his house.

            After leaving the saddlebags beside the pantry, he headed for his room, setting the waterproof knapsack on his bed and shedding his cloak. Grabbing his bow and quiver, he sat on the edge of the bed and produced a bowstring from one of the pouches on his belt. Stringing the bow, Link tested it, pulling the waxed and twined sinew. The wood bent smoothly, with no creaking or groaning. Satisfied, he unstrung it and returned the string to the pouch containing three others. Next, he examined his arrows, sighting down each shaft to make sure it was straight before checking the swan feather fletching. Once the last arrow was scrutinized, Link slipped his bow through a loop on the quiver, tightening it. He set it beside the rucksack and headed for his swords and shield.

            Link lifted the kite-shaped Hylian shield from the floorboards, running his hands over its painted steel surface. It was mostly deep blue, though its border had been left unpainted, as well as two sinuous pieces. Between those two pieces, the Triforce was painted in yellow, cradled between the outstretched wings of a red phoenix, and a downward-pointing yellow triangle near the bottom completed the design. Walking to his bed, Link placed it beside his other gear before returning to examine his swords.

            The first one he picked up was the one he had used in practice, the Gilded Sword. Gleaming gold strengthened the tempered steel, while more gold wrapped around the bare hilt. Link hefted the blade, watching the light play across its beautiful surface. It was slim and light, perfect for quick swordplay.

            Sheathing the Gilded Sword, Link drew the Great Fairy’s Sword. Longer and broader than the other weapon, it was shaped similarly to the Master Sword, though a little longer and heavier. He could hold the lengthy green hilt comfortably in both hands, though now he could wield it easily in one. A green crossguard curved down just above the hilt, as well as another one above it constructed of the same rose-hued metal as the edges of the blade. The blade’s flat sides were made of the shining green metal, with black roses etched into it. Link swung it experimentally, testing its balance. Pleased, he slid it into its green and rose scabbard and set it beside his shield.

            Link walked to his cabinet and opened it. He pulled out two snowy white shirts, two pairs of matching breeches, and a tunic in the usual green. Folding them, he carried them to the rucksack and stuffed them in on top of the supplies from the potion shop. Picking the bag up by one of its straps, he carried it to the first room and headed to the pantry. He selected dried meats in cloth bags, cheeses wrapped in paper, flatbread, and a few wrinkled apples. Once full, he set the knapsack aside and filled the saddlebags, buckling them shut. He seized two two full waterskins and stuffed them inside the packs, then halted, tugging the roll of parchment from his belt.

            Does this have something to do with finding Zelda? he wondered, staring at the words. It must be important, but how?

            Unable to glean anything from it, he tucked it inside the waterproof rucksack.


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