Chapter 2: The Encounter
I will never know why it happened. The chance of it happening was astronomical. Or was it? I have often wondered if something more than probability was involved. Perhaps the Goddesses knew that the Clawed Hand would soon take our lives by storm again. Perhaps they sent him, as they sent me.
The blaze of white light was almost blinding in its intensity. Link and Saria covered their eyes; it was like watching the sun. It went on for thirty or forty seconds until a new and oddly familiar sound entered the hearing of the two Kokiri: a keening whine not unlike the sound of magic beams. Magic?!
"Link, cover your ears! NOW!" yelled Saria, slamming her hands to Link's ears. He yelped and tried to pull away, but Saria, with her enhanced powers, was able to keep his ears shut until the sound had died away. Link threw her hands off and glared.
"What was that for?" he said angrily.
Saria's mind went into overdrive. How do I get out of this one? Then she hit it.
"Because ... I know something you don't!" She stuck her tongue out at him and danced off, giggling. Link's gloomy facade collapsed and he bounded after her, his legs pumping.
"Ha ha, I'm gonna tell the Deku Sprout you're trying to kiss me!" taunted Saria.
Link ran faster. "No! Anything but that! You know the rules!" he shouted after her. "If you do, I'll ... I'll ... beat you up! Yeah!"
Like you could, you weakling. All your heroic muscles are gone, and you're just a ten-year old now, thought Saria smugly as she ran towards the Sprout clearing. Meanwhile, I still have all my old Sage powers, since I was designated your protector and require the use of them in times such as these! She suddenly began running at twice her normal speed, leaving Link far in the dust and making useless threats to her retreating back.
When Link arrived at the Deku Tree Sprout's clearing, he saw Saria sitting by the Sprout smugly and the Sprout with a stern expression on his face. "Link," said the Sprout, "Saria has been telling me of your bad behavior." Saria covertly grinned behind a shirt sleeve as Link threw his arms out.
"I haven't done anything, Deku Tree! It's all a lie!" he replied vehemently.
"Link, you know the rules."
"But Deku Tree -"
"You have broken the rules."
"Do not protest."
"But I -"
"As your friend will say, 'Sorry, but no cigar.' "
Saria, who had been giggling silently, abruptly stopped, as did Link. As your friend will say? What's that supposed to mean? they both thought.
Then the Deku Sprout turned himself to Saria. Saria, the light you saw was no ordinary light. The Darkness has consumed it, as it must consume all things until the very end, but its remnants will be found burning in the Lost Woods. Summon the firewatch, Saria. I must speak with Link.
Saria knew an order when she heard it. And though she did not understand, she would not hesitate! She quickly ran, knowing that if there was something burning in the Lost Woods, there would not be much time before a conflagration reached the forest.
Link made to go after her, but the Sprout stopped him. "Link, my adopted son ... stay with me. You will have your day."
Link turned back, confused. "Deku Tree, why is Saria acting funny? Why are you saying such strange things? What's going on?"
The Sprout sighed. "Ah, Link, if only you remembered. Then you would not have these questions. Why, why, why ... why indeed? Only the Goddesses know."
For a minute the both of them stood there, locked in a silent gaze. Link was more confused than ever, but he knew the Sprout was getting to something important. That was his way. Finally the small protector of the forest spoke.
"Link, do you remember your emerging from my limbs?"
Link thought. "No, I don't. But that's normal, isn't it? ... isn't it, Deku Tree?"
The Sprout sighed, the sound of wind whistling through branches. "It is not normal, Link. You are not normal. And do you know why?"
Fear began to scrabble at Link's heart. "Why, Deku Tree?"
"Because you have never emerged. You are not my tree-son. You are not Kokiri."
The words hung in the air. Link was so stunned he fell to the ground, unable to support himself.
"N - no! I ... I must be Kokiri! Please, Deku Tree, tell me I am yours!"
Another breath. "No, Link. You are not mine. Ah, do not cry, young one! Do not cry! You are still loved, young rascal! But you are not mine - no, rather, I am yours."
Link was astonished. "W - what? What do you mean?"
"The meaning shall be hidden for now, Link. It must be sufficient that you know that all peoples belong to you."
"I don't understand, wise tree."
"And you are not expected to, Link. It is enough that you know and remember."
The Sprout seemed to perk up. "Link, help your friend Saria. You must put out the fire that burns in the Lost Woods now. You shall know concerning my words soon enough. Then, perhaps, you and I shall speak of them. Go, my son!"
"Mido? Mido, get your lazy hide out of bed! MIDO!" screamed Saria. "The forest is burning!"
"And I care?" growled Mido as he got out of bed, summoned by Saria's frantic yells.
"Did someone say something about burning?" said Esc as he poked his head out of his bedroom window. He made up one third of the Know-It-All Brothers. The others were just climbing out of bed.
"Yes, Esc! Get Ence and Evan out of bed and get the water!" shouted Saria as she ran towards Callery's house.
Esc suddenly realized what was going on. "Ence! Evan! Let's get to the water station, now!"
Soon all the Kokiri were assembling in the Lost Woods, carrying thick bladders full of water. When all of them were ready, Saria and Mido led the way towards the smoke, which by now was billowing up in great black billows. They also heard some unfamiliar voices, saying something that they could not hear, even with their amazing hearing. Saria strained to hear, but could not. It was no matter - by that time they could see what was causing the fire.
It was two pieces of huge metal - on fire! Saria gasped. What could make metal melt and catch fire? Not even a Sage can do this. Only - Saria's heart skipped a beat. Only the Evil One himself, and only at great cost.
But there was no time for thought! Saria began to apply herself to the task at hand - and though the rest of the Kokiri did not know it, Saria was the reason they were able to put out fires of this magnitude.
Saria carefully focused in her mind and pictured the fires going out and the water splashing over the blaze in great gouts. "Now, everyone!" The Kokiri let out a cry and threw their water upon the fire - and the fire roared higher.
The Kokiri collectively gasped and began to stumble back raggedly, unable to comprehend this bizarre turn of events - water was supposed to destroy fire, not help it. Saria turned to them. "Away, friends! This is not your battle!"
That was all the encouragement that the Kokiri needed, and they all ran except for Link, who ran to her side, brandishing a Deku Stick that he'd picked up. "Saria, what is it?"
And then Saria screamed.
Ten years. Twenty. Fifty. A hundred?
He paced, as he had for so long. He had all power here, here in the Dark World, but there was no way to use that power to break free of his chains. His power, though complete, was illusory except here in his prison.
But he could talk to his spies and friends who were not bound.
And so it was that he learned of a foreign object beyond the limits of earth, hurtling towards him. Or was it hurtling away from him?
Or was he the object?
That really didn't matter now. For his spies had told him of how they could sacrifice themselves to bring their master into a semblance of his former self. Once he had regained his power, they would be brought back as if they had never died. He contemplated this terrible deed with glee and anticipation as he asked his servants to continue their explanation.
They said that they could sacrifice themselves, but they would need a component - an innocent tool, and something untainted by Hyrulian scum. And this new object was the tool they would use to free their master.
He laughed, focusing his energy upon the - vehicle, yes. Something beyond comprehension, something that could move between stars. He felt greedy, wanting the power - but that was for later. Yes. Must get out of the prison, eh?
He did a very risky thing then: he gave power to his chief servant to destroy the object and cause its remains to create the gateway to the overworld. The servant expended all of it in a gigantic bolt of magic that incinerated the vehicle which moved faster than stars - this caused the servant to die.
He did not feel pity or grief for that servant or the others that were killing themselves for his sake. That was not his way.
But he did feel overwhelming joy as he saw two broken pieces of the vehicle crash into the Last Woods.
Last Woods? Least Woods? Long Woods? Yeast Woods?
Lost Woods! Yes! Lost Woods!
And yes, there was a boy standing there, so unprotected. He could reach out and destroy him -
And a blinding flash of light caused him to cower. A face appeared before him. It was the face of - no, all he could see was that she had golden hair -
"He is the third part of your destruction," said the face.
The monstrous entity who confronted the face screamed in anger, and rose up calling his compatriots to him, shouting that deliverance from their prison was nigh.
As the face disappeared, he reached up with one clawed hand, his tail swinging, his mouth frothing - he could taste victory -
"What is it, Saria?" said Link.
The fire laughed, then disappeared. The burning metal disappeared, leaving a hole in the ground.
Out of the hole peeked a huge gray hand, adorned with mighty claws. A horrible voice suddenly drew out of the hole, rasping with insanity:
"The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Up came the sun and dried up all the rain ... and the itsy-bitsy spider crawled up the spout AGAIN!" A monstrous form leapt out of the hole, snarling and whipping its tail in every direction, its claws click-clacking together in a frenzied motion.
Saria's jaw fell slack in horror. "No, no, not again, not again -"
The creature turned towards her with wild red eyes. "Yes ... yes ... I know you. You're one of the dogs that tried to kill me -"
Link flew towards him, flinging the Deku Stick crazily. "No one calls Saria a dog!" He clubbed the monster on the head.
"Agh! You pest -" The monster backhanded Link, knocking him unconscious.
Help, please, anyone, help! cried Saria telepathically. The monster leered at her.
"No one to save you now, little forest girl! It's all happening again, and there's nothing you can do to stop it!" The monster threw his head back and laughed. "For I am Mandrag Ganon, Incarnation of Evil and Prince of the Darkness! Soon I shall regain my full glory and then - yes, then, I shall have dominion over all living things upon this earth!" Black lightning bolts began to strike Ganon, but they had no effect except to strengthen him; he had returned and was absorbing all power. Saria heard the thunder above her head and let out a small sob right before she was struck -
There comes a time when every Kokiri must make a choice.
All Kokiri are brought forth from the Deku Tree, who takes them from the Goddess Farore and becomes their caretaker. Because of the Deku Tree's power, all Kokiri remain young forever. No matter how much knowledge and wisdom they gain, they are stopped in their bodily progression right before puberty.
Additionally, a cloak of protection is placed around the forest. No normal being can pass through without the permission of the Tree, but neither can any Kokiri leave, under pain of death within the hour that they leave. It is an ideal arrangement. The Kokiri remain uncorrupted from outside influences and the Goddesses gain a haven where they can bring up their chosen avatars without trouble.
But there is one problem.
When a Kokiri reaches one hundred years of age (the age at which they stop growing), he or she is brought to the Deku Tree by the two oldest Kokiri. That Kokiri is then told of the outside world and given a choice.
The choice is this: will you remain here with us and live forever, or will you renounce your race of birth and join the outside world to have finite life?
There were Kokiri who had chosen the larger part of Hyrule. The most famous, of course, was Naivor, who was so wise he had elected to become mortal to gain knowledge he could not get within the forest. The most infamous was probably Drake, who, on his hundredth emerging-day claimed he'd had a vision telling him to leave. He proceeded to talk with the Deku Sprout and was gone that very night into the world beyond. That had been thirty or maybe forty years ago; one thing Kokiri were not good at was keeping time, and no one really remembered any specific dates except the Sprout, who had reasons of his own for keeping them secret.
But most Kokiri chose to remain young forever, gaining what knowledge they could and trying infinite ways to vary their life's routines. Sometimes the Sprout would suggest games or tell them a story; sometimes people like Evan, who had a great imagination, and Callery, who was the most enthusiastic of all Kokiri, would invent games or stories or make new and interesting weapons out of sticks; Evan was especially good at stick-making.
However, even with the monumental choices to be made and the innovations constantly being created by the Kokiri, no one was prepared for the arrival of one who was not Kokiri.
Saria had found him one day on the very outskirts of the forest, next to two corpses. The first corpse, obviously a woman's, was still recognizable. The second was not because all the flesh had been stripped from it. Saria had nearly vomited before she got herself under control. She knew that the second corpse had fallen under the curse of those who intruded into the forest. But - wait - what was that by the body of the woman?
Saria had not seen a baby since ... well, it was no matter. At least she knew how to take care of one, unlike some of the other Kokiri ...
When she brought it back, everyone had been amazed. Some Kokiri weren't a thousand years old, and they had never seen a baby before. "What is it?" they cried.
"Something that doesn't concern you," said Saria snappishly. It was rude of her to say it, but true nonetheless: the Deku Sprout had to be notified of this before anyone else.
As she brought the baby into the Deku Sprout's clearing, the wise little tree spoke. "Why have you come here, Saria?"
"A baby, wise tree. I found him just inside the forest bridge." For the first time, Saria allowed herself to smile.
The Sprout suddenly laughed, a great booming laugh that might have been comical under different circumstances. "Then it has begun in earnest, my daughter. As my father would say: 'Thou hast done well, child.' "
Saria beamed. "Oh, Deku Tree, I'll take care of him."
The Sprout smiled back. "I know you will, Saria. You shall name him again, just as you did the first time."
"Yes," said Saria. "Of course. But, wise tree ..."
"Ask your question."
"Will we win?"
The Deku Sprout lapsed into silence. Saria fidgeted while she waited for his answer. Then he spoke.
"If Link will choose his destiny correctly, then yes, Saria, we will triumph over Ganon."
Saria's body went slack in relief. "That gives me great confidence, Deku Tree."
"Thank you, Saria. You may depart now, and please leave the child here." As Saria turned away, the Sprout spoke. "Saria, I have a final question for you." Saria quickly turned back. "Why did you call me 'Deku Tree'?"
Saria smiled. "Because I think it's disrespectful to call you a Sprout. You are as wise as your father; why should you be called a Sprout?"
The Sprout thought for a moment. "Very well. You may call me the Deku Tree. Do not force this on the other Kokiri, however."
"Of course ... Deku Tree." Saria's smile widened as she left the clearing. She did not see the Sprout smiling back at her as she departed.
"Saria, you are the greatest of all Kokiri." The Sprout looked at the babe sitting in front of him. "And what of you, young Hero of Time?"
Link opened his eyes to find himself in Saria's house. A delicious smell of Dekuberries was wafting in from the oven. Feeling rather sore, he didn't move for a couple moments, instead choosing to look at the picture of Saria and him on the wall. She had drawn it a while ago, when Link had been shorter. He smiled as he remembered Saria taking care of him.
Feeling a bit braver, Link managed to push himself onto his feet and groan. Saria was at the oven and heard him get up. "Feeling better, Link?" she said.
"Hardly, but your Dekuberry pie smells good."
"Actually, I'm making a bandage for your head," replied Saria.
Link touched his head and winced, but he still managed to crack a joke. "I guess I got hit harder than I thought."
Saria chuckled. "You're just a silly little boy anyway," she said as she removed two bandages from the pot she was cooking them in. Link watched her hang them up on a couple of pegs on the wall. He didn't notice that Saria's green hair was matted and wet.
"So why do you cook the bandages? I've never really understood why we do that," he said.
Saria nodded in agreement. "Don't ask me why, either - I'm just going by what the Deku Tree said." Actually, Link, it's because of germs, but no one except the Deku Tree and I know that. What would all the Kokiri think if they knew the world was filled with tiny creatures that they can't see, and that some of them could hurt them, maybe very badly? They'd lock themselves in their houses and never come out again.
Link shrugged and lay down upon his bed again. "Wake me when -"
Link flew out of bed. "Foul Moblin -"
Saria grabbed him. "No, Link, it's just Elani!"
Elani, one of the smallest Kokiri, was standing at Saria's doorway. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry -" she said over and over.
Saria took Elani by the shoulders and hugged her. "Don't worry, Elani, it's all right. I thought you were over by Link's house?"
Elani sniffled back some tears. "No, I was in Link's house! I like sitting up there so I can see the entire village, but then I heard a noise and I turned around and there was a big person sitting there! I knew right then I shouldn't be in Link's house and then I came here and Link attacked me and - and -" Saria knew Link was feeling bad because he'd scared Elani.
Saria sighed. The poor girl was scared so easily, but at least she had a good heart. Then her mind went abruptly into overdrive. A big person?! Here in the forest? That hasn't happened for hundreds of years!
Link was way ahead of her. "Stay here with Elani, Saria! I'll go find out what this is all about!"
As Link climbed his treehouse ladder, he heard soft breathing coming from his house. "What's in my house?" he wondered to himself, bracing for a fight. Softly clambering up onto his wooden balcony, Link tiptoed to the doorway. He looked around, trying to see what was making the breathing noise. His woodcarvings were arranged the same; his wood floor was still clean; his water basin was undisturbed - and his bed was softly moving up and down! Ah ha! Link thought triumphantly. The game ends here!
He silently approached the bed, his own bed that had been penetrated by some foul heathen. Link knew he could defeat whatever was lying there easily. Adrenaline coarsed through his system and he raised his hand in preparation for a vicious kai chop.
The thing in his bed sat up - and gasped.
Link gasped too.
The thing spoke. "Okay, pal - if you just sit down and tell me where I am, no one's gonna get hurt."
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