Author's Note: I don't own Zelda nor claim to. All rights to their respective owners.
Nightfall found Link still lying on the trail in the perilous Western Forest. A few rays of the setting sun slipped between the trees and cast a long, thin shadow from the arrow protruding from his chest like a morbid sundial. Perhaps by virtue of the three fragments of the triforce he had acquired, he was still alive. But barely. His death was not arrested, but merely delayed. The wooden sword in all it's power lay useless by his side.
Link buoyed in and out of consciousness as night fell. Peculiar sounds kept reeling him back in from the abyss of sleep. He heard crying again. The further the sun slipped, the louder it became. He was gradually surrounded by a cacophony of wailing and mourning. With great effort, against fatigue and fear, he opened his eyes.
Faeries. Merging with the mortal realm as the sun's bar on their freedom raised like the curtain of a play. All shapes and sizes, mostly of a feminine appearance. They all stood just as tall or taller than any Hylian. Each one's countenance gave some hint of its mode and means. There were faeries with hair that appeared as velvety and stark green as moss with emerald eyes. Others were bedecked heavily in coats of red leaves, chestnut hair flowing from beneath crowns of young oak twigs, eyes like the shadow of the earth eclipsing the moon. There were faeries of lesser kinds that were childish in appearance with long limbs and round bellies. Almost every faction of faykind was represented in the gathering.
And all of them were bawling. They were walking along the trail, passing Link in a procession.
"Willow!" the cried out, either beating their chests in grief or holding each other. "Oh, fair Willow! Who could do this to you? Who could take you from us? What evil does this and yet gets away with it? Dearest Willow, our precious love! Oh, our precious Willow!"
They carried on like this, the whole train of them, on and on. When it seemed their grief was subsiding, it would gather new strength and fountain anew. The faeries that could maintain their composure played hypnotic and soul-wrenching dirges on musical instruments of no mortal origin. The music pierced Link's heart deeper than the arrow punctured his lung. He wanted to mourn and grieve with the procession as if the deceased were his own twin from the womb.
On a gurney of two long and gnarled boughs woven criss-cross with grasses there lay a faerie of exquisite beauty. Like the other faeries, her beauty was rather adolescent but ever more so in her case. Her skin was white like moonlight, her limbs long and thin. Save for her pointed ears and large eyes with long lashes, her features were smallish and doll-like. Modest bosom and hips of no dramatic shape. Her hair had a quality unlike the other faeries. It was the brown of willow bark, but ripples of iridescent silver flowed through her hair. Silver like a willow's catkins.
She had only one arm. It lay limp across her chest. A sort of liquid light dribbled from the wound where her other arm was missing. It paved the trail for the rest of the procession to follow in lunar droplets.
A thought struck Link.
With even more effort than it took to open his eyes, Link craned his head to look at the wooden sword by his side. It had become a severed arm. Just as frost white as the fay in the gurney. The runes that were upon the wood had becomes gouges. Wounds carved in the delicate flesh. Link clenched his eyes shut as tears burst forth. He cried and he cried in spite of his ruined lung. Willow. Poor, poor Willow.
He cried for what seemed hours. The procession trailed on just as long. It finally started to thin with small, normally mischievous Puck-type fay bringing up the rear, carrying themselves on short and shaggy goat's legs.
Link was devastated to see them go. He wanted to join them. Tear the arrow from his chest and march with them in the power of his burning grief. He called out to them, but they didn't seem to notice. The greater chorus of the wailing had passed, so his cries weren't drowned out, though softened by his wound. Why couldn't they hear? So what if he was mortal, as far as elves are mortal... he had the right to mingle his tears with theirs. His mortal heart ached just like theirs. Why didn't they...
He realized he was still wearing the talismans. Evidently they didn't drive the faeries away, but merely blinded them.
He reached up. His fingers had lost most of their sensation and he couldn't undo the clip that held the simple wooden charms in place. So he grabbed and yanked. The cord was just flimsy enough so that they tore. He tossed them away leaving him and Willow's arm out of the aura of their influence.
Link cried out for all he was worth. Go ahead and kill me or whatever you faeries do to elves you find with some of the remains of your friends. Just let me be a part of this. Part of this cause.
Sob and call as he may, no ears took note. The pucks and the minute, lesser elementals trailed off, ending the chapter in Link's vicinity.
Link shut his eyes. Failed. I've failed. I've rescued no princess, slain no Ganon, and I've not helped mourn the fall of one of the sky's brightest stars.
He took Willow's severed arm and pulled it onto his chest, holding it by the wrist. It was cold like it had been in it's sword form in the old man's cave. If only he had known. He held her tightly. He would pass into the netherworld with her.
And much to his surprise, she held him back. The delicate fingers wrapped around his wrist and reciprocated his clasp.
Crying. The same crying that he heard in his tent the night before. More musical than the instruments played in the processional dirges. More poignant than the body in the gurney now so far, far away. It came from the arm and chased up after the whispy grey evening clouds.
"Willow?" a voice called from up the trail.
A mix of voices developed. They slowly overpowered the crying of the arm.
The lesser elementals flopped, flapped, and rolled back to Link with round eyes of astonishment. Some ran back up the trail and returned with the pucks. Some of the pucks ran back up the trail and thus word traveled up the procession. There was a wounded mortal drenched in tears. He had Willow's mutilated arm in his hand. And his in hers.
"Look at it!"
"At him or her?"
"Both! What's he doing with her arm?"
"Looks more like 'what's she doing with him?'"
"Oh, the runes! Carved into dear Willow's beautiful skin! Did he do this?"
"Murderer! Death to him!"
"By why does she clasp him so? Remember our Willow, now. She never held anyone like that."
"She couldn't grip if she did not live! Could she..."
"Our Willow lives! Our Willow yet lives!"
"Everyone! Willow still has the seed of life! Our Willow is alive! Precious, sweet Willow is alive!"
"You there! What are you doing with Willow's arm, eh? Answer us!"
They pressed Link on all sides. Transcendentally beautiful and handsome faces twisted with rage, wonder, hope, and ecstasy all at once. Their breath was cool and rich with all scents of trees and grasses and spring water. Link had grieved out the last of his strength. His mouth opened and wind passed his teeth, but there were no words, no voice.
"He dies! He should die!"
"He shouldn't die so peacefully! Restore him so we can kill him slowly!"
"Over hundreds of years!"
Astonishment and wonder were dwindling whilst rage and anger were mounting. Some of them, in their fury, were developing skin of a semi-translucent nature where fanged skulls and bones with talons were becoming visible from beneath their beautiful visages. This was the deeper, truer nature of Faeries that held sway over the Old World, before the advent of Day and Night and the boundaries these imposed.
As the anger of the mob mounted, Willow's severed hand worked it's way from Link's wrist to his hand and meshed it's fingers with his.
"Stop! Don't harm him yet, we may hurt Willow! She won't let go!"
"See! Does Willow speak for him?"
"Restore Willow and let her decide his fate!"
"Yes! Let Willow decide!"
"But she will not let go! How can we restore her arm if she will not let go?"
"We must restore the mortal first."
"He will try to flee!"
"See to it that he doesn't. Close him in, all of you! Up the trail and down! Between the trees, above the trees! Hem him in!"
Faerie auras flickered and darted until every conceivable escape route was shut off. Tall valiant faeries in the way of the trails and pucks and pixies and elementals ducking in the scrub and the trees. Then one black-haired fay wrapped in light with azure eyes entered Link's blurring vision.
"For our Willow," she said, and she bent over Link and kissed him.
The pain in his chest stopped and a curious power spread from the wound throughout his body until all the hurt had ceased. His first inclination was to fall asleep with the sudden reprieve from pain.
There were further efforts to remove Willow's arm from Link, but she held fast as ever. It would be Link, then, after all who bring her arm back to her.
Seemingly thousands of hands were on him, icy and powerful. Pushing from behind and pulling from before. Link's equilibrium wasn't quite with him yet. The full recovery was still ahead of him, but the supernatural mob wouldn't wait for it.
His vision cleared in time to see Willow's bier brought up to him. Now standing (or propped up), he could see best the fairness that the faerie realm thought gone forever. Such a delicate frame. Everything was an over-achievement of tender beauty, even the subtle shadows on her collarbone.
In spite of the urge to run his fingers through her shimmering hair, Link placed the arm in it's rightful place. The bleeding light flashed and cast long, hairy rays until the wound was sealed. Her grip on Link's hand tightened more.
Willow opened her eyes. She was looking straight into his. No lacquered wood that Link had ever seen held the burnish that her warm brown eyes did. She smiled.
All other faerie hands let go of Link. With them went the vitality they had imparted to him. Link sank into complete darkness.
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