Link could feel his heart leap, he had at last awoken the final sage. The small wounds of his battle with Twinrova were still stinging, but he paid them no mind. He had other things to think about!
The Temple of Time, Rauru had told him to go there. Someone was waiting for him. He suspected it was Sheik, the friendly but distant youth who had been a great aid thus far in Link's quest. Link wouldn't mind seeing Sheik again, he liked the man well enough. But Link was hoping, deep down, that Zelda was the one awaiting him in the old Temple. It was a foolish hope, perhaps, but Link wished it still with all his might.
The last time the hero had seen his royal friend was seven years ago, and under rather frightening circumstances. Since then, Link knew nothing of her whereabouts or even if she still lived. The fear in the princess's eyes on that night so long ago still burned in his mind like hot coals. It had pained him to see her in distress and be unable to do anything about it.
But these thoughts Link pushed to the back of his mind as he entered the Temple of Time. Link wasn't particularly fond of the place, it had after all kept him prisoner for almost half his life. Link supposed it wasn't the Temple's fault, but he still resented it.
There in front of him Link saw a figure, about his height with gold hair shimmering in the stray sunbeams filtering through the windows. For a breif instant Link thought it was indeed the princess Zelda, but then he caught sight of the red eyes beneath the bright hair. His heart fell, it was only Sheik. So then, Zelda was...?
Link did his best not to show disappointment, Sheik was his friend after all. Sheik seemed to take no notice of Link's reaction, for it had outwardly been a small one. The young masked man stepped forward to meet Link and spoke.
Link listened only half heartedly as Sheik congratulated him on his success with the sages, his mind was still on the missing princess. What had happened to her?
Then Link's long pointed ears perked up as Sheik began a tale about the triforce. Link mournfully thought of the first legend Zelda had told him about the Sacred Realm, it had been his favorite. This was no time for moping, Link scolded himself inwardly. He had to listen to this. It was no doulbt important.
"The Triforce of Courage is in you Link," the hero caught as he turned his attention back to Sheik. He was glad he had, that was something he didn't want to miss! Was Sheik serious? He, Link, the little forest boy who had only been obaying his princess's wishes, the holder of the Triforce of Courage?
Link wasn't given much time to ponder this, for Sheik had continued on. "The holder of the Triforce of Wisdom is the Seventh sage, the one destined to lead them all..." Sheik thew up a pose that revealed the back of his right hand, which began to glow. A triangle appeared, and the light grew too bright for Link's eyes.
He blinked, and then found himself in the room with someone quite different.
"It is I, princess Zelda," a beautiful young woman Link's own age said.
Link stuttered a bit, THIS certainly was an unexpected turn. All this time, Zelda had been posing as Sheik! It was Zelda who met him when he had first emerged frim his imprisonment in the Sacred Realm and told him of his quest. It was Zelda who had comforted him when Saria had not been at her place in the Sacred Forest Meadow. It was Zelda who had been there so many times, and Link had never even guessed it!
Link felt his knees weaken with the force of the news and struggled for moment to absorb it all. Then Zelda spoke again and he looked up at her.
She had grown quite a bit since Link had last seen her. She was near as tall as him, and stood with all the pride fitting a princess. Her hair now fell loose down her back, cascading in waves of gold and glittering as the sun danced in it. Her face was prettier even than Link remembered, and he could hardly stop from staring. Her eyes were still her own, still the same eyes that had fascinated him so when they were younger. The butterfly like lashes and the deep indigo that drew him in like the ocean tide, it was all as he remembered.
And yet it was not. They were the same eyes, but they held something different now. Before they had been portals into her childhood, to look into them was to see sunshine and laughter and all things from a happy youth. They were now filled with her graceful maturity.
Zelda stood proud and brave, wise and strong. But Link could see, though no other would have, that becoming the pillar of strength she now was had taken a heavy toll on Zelda's spirit.
Her pride was in her people and her country, but it was filled with sadness at all the abuse Hyrule had suffered. It cried out with the pain of the people and the rape of the land. Her pride had cost her her happiness.
Her bravery was the result of the terrors she had faced. Had she not been brave she would have broken long ago under the starin of all she had been subjected to; losing her family, running from her home, chased all the while by Ganon. Her bravery had cost her her childhood.
Her wisdom was forced upon her, her eyes even at ten had seen things that would make a man twice her age weep with horror. She had seen the destruction of all she loved and knew with terrible clarity all that mankind was capable of. Her wisdom had cost her her innocence.
But the most tragic thing Link saw when he looked at her was the strength she held. This had without doubt been the most painful to obtain. For it she had suffered more than any other Link had yet met. Poor Saria had lost her innocence when she was forced to behold all the evil in a place meant for happines. Ruto had watched her people freeze beneath the ice and was left without any means to help them. Impa had lost her charge, and in her heart her daughter. Malon- oh, poor Malon- she had lost her father and now lived with a man who abused her. But none of these things could match what Zelda had lost. To gain her strength Zelda had been forced to live in hiding. She'd not only had to leave her old friends but could not make new ones. She had become strong because she had to rely on herself for everything. She was alone in the world and had to keep it that way. Her strength had cost her her heart.
Link could not read minds as Zelda could, it was not how his Triforce worked. But he could read her heart, which was perhaps even more important. All these things he saw, and his heart cried out to hers.
Zelda, alas, could not hear him, for she had long ago sacrificed her own soul for those of the Hylian people. To be what was needed Zelda could not keep her humanity, it left her too weak. And this too Link saw.
He wanted to cry, for perhaps the first time in his life. As Zelda finished her recount of what his mission was, Link nodded in acceptence of the task. Perhaps, he thought, if Hyrule was returned to peace then Zelda's heart might be free again. Perhaps. He could only hope.
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